THE GLASS CASTLE: I worked in advertising at a radio station where the first two-and-a-half hours of our staff meeting were devoted to berating us for our incompetence and subpar performance. But in the final three minutes, we’d hear our bosses urging us to “go out with a positive attitude”. That’s exactly the kind of storyline structure this movie, based on journalist Jeannette Walls memoir of her dysfunctional childhood, is laid out on. For over an hour and three quarters plus, we observe through flashbacks the rootless existence of a family headed by an alcoholic, big-talking father (Woody Harrelson) and his “artistic” enabling wife (Naomi Watts) whose “teaching moments” with their children are worthy of visits from Child Protective Services. Then the concluding final minutes become about forgiveness for bad parenting which feels like a sanitized retreat from subject matter that’s far more complicated territory than this film is willing to venture into. The screenplay’s theme is that we’re destined to turn into our parents. But if that’s the case then why do all four children thrive and become responsible adults away from their “parental guidance” in this work? The result is a movie making the inference that kids growing up with borderline abuse and deprivation turn into well-adjusted adults. Really? Seriously? That’s not to denigrate Harrelson’s (See CLOSING CREDITS.) performance as the hateful yet tragic patriarch despite wearing some of the worst hairpieces in the history of film. As the Walls character, Brie Larson (ROOM) has the required degree of complexity in her portrayal of an adult child uncertain about where to stash baggage laden parents in her life. Interestingly, the closing credits dedicate the movie “to those with scars who have learned to love” when it should have acknowledged persons with scars who had the courage and fortitude to leave them behind. Now that would have made a good movie. CRITIC’S GRADE: C

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are much better movies starring Woody Harrelson – WILDCATS (1986), WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP (1992), NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994), KINGPIN (1996), THE PEOPLE vs. LARRY FLYNT (1996)*, WAG THE DOG (1997), WELCOME TO SARAJEVO (1997), THE THIN RED LINE (1998), EDtv (1999), NORTH COUNTRY (2005), THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO (2005), A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006), A SCANNER DARKLY (2006), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007), THE MESSENGER (2009)**, ZOMBIELAND (2009), THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013), EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016), WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor