The last time actor Brie Larson and director Destin Daniel Cretton worked together, it was on 2013’s Short Term 12—a wrenching, beautiful movie about a young woman working at a group home for troubled teens. But The Glass Castle, which reunites the pair, lacks the fervent honesty of their first collaboration. Instead, The Glass Castle has a speed and gloss that seem out of place in a film adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ memoir about growing up with her nomadic, alcoholic father.
In the film, Jeannette is played by three actresses (Chandler Head, Ella Anderson and Larson) and endures a cascade of horrors, including nearly being drowned by her father (Woody Harrelson) and seeing him dangle her mother (Naomi Watts) out of a window.
Yet, despite the story’s nightmarish passages, the film often feels insubstantial. Cretton breezes through plenty of traumatic incidents, but doesn’t fully convey the psychological impact of any of them. Only in a late scene where Larson and Harrelson simply stare at each other and chat do we get a tantalizing whiff of a more thoughtful movie that might have been—and proof that as a team, Larson and Cretton still have cinematic gifts to give.

CRITIC'S RATING: 2/4 stars

The Glass Castle plays at Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Living Room Theaters, Lloyd, Tigard, Vancouver. Rated PG-13.