In most movies and certainly in TV, poverty is either a temporary state, played for laughs or something lazy people fall into because it’s their own fault. It’s often a low point before the protagonists finally can enjoy an easily won urban affluence. And, although it has its struggles and dire challenges, our heroes always remain the same people.
That’s a lie. Poverty is a stain that dyes your skin through and through. And while talented writers can keep audiences interested by the idea that hope burns eternal, poverty can become all that anyone knows. It is a trap from which many, many people find there is no escape. It is the here and now and forever into the sunset.
“The Glass Castle,” a new film starring Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson and Naomi Watts, is somewhat of an exception in that it portrays poverty in very realistic terms, illustrating its motivations and reasons in ways few films have the honesty to do. Based upon the 2005 nonfiction book by Jeannette Walls, the movie written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton highlights the heartbreaking and courageous efforts of the children born to Rex and Rose Mary Walls simply to survive into adulthood.
But, it is also the story of a couple who probably started out as larger-than-life iconoclasts, able to run naked into boundless fields of creative energy, fueled by unbridled imagination and a colorful passion for living free and easy – even if it all existed in their own minds. What we see are two incredibly irresponsible people who should be the best parents they can to their four wonderful kids, but who drag them around the country from one rundown rat trap to another, running from bill collectors and probably imaginary enemies.
As Rex and Rose Mary, Harrelson and Watts are very good at their portrayals, especially Harrelson, who creates an alcoholic head of household we, the audience, can both relate to and yet thoroughly hate. His character thinks nothing of breaking the piggy bank that Jeannette has been using to save up for leaving so he can go out and get drunk. Watts plays a woman who is supposed to be an artist. At one point, Jeannette as a child hasn’t eaten in more than a day and asks her mom, who is painting, for some food. Rose Mary turns to her and says, “That meal will be gone in two hours, but this painting will be a work of art forever.”
The title comes from a grand plan thought up by Rex. He tells his kids he wants to build this magnificent house that will employ solar energy, be off the grid and become famous for its innovations. But, like a lot of things Rex comes up with, nothing ever comes of it.
When we first see Jeannette (Larson), she’s an adult, a New York magazine columnist engaged to an up-and-coming businessman. One night, on the way to a dinner, their cab passes a woman digging in a dumpster and a man with a wild look in his eyes yelling at traffic. Jeannette suddenly recognizes them. It’s her folks. And, suddenly, she realizes how carefully she has worked for years to hide the facts of her childhood.
In real life, the decision she ultimately comes to is to let it all out. She wrote a book about it and eventually used her fortune to take care of what was left. It was the best thing she could do. They would never have done the same for her.
“The Glass House” is a tough movie to watch. But, it is highly recommended. It might just help in some small way.
It is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
MPAA rating: R for some sexuality
Movies at the TCA
In this remake of the 1971 film that starred Clint Eastwood, the tables are turned by director Sofia Coppola. Cpl. John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is an injured Union soldier who finds himself on the run as a deserter during the American Civil War.
He seeks refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school, where the teachers and students seem more than willing to help. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounded leg while offering him comfort and companionship.
In addition to Farrell, this film stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 10) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Sept. 11-13).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.
MPAA rating: R for violence and peril
Mitchell Storyteller 7
In the U.S., a child goes missing every 40 seconds. You never think it will happen to you until it does. Alone and scared, Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is unwilling to leave the fate of her son’s (Sage Correa) life in someone else’s hands. When she catches a glimpse of the abductors speeding away, she decides to fight back. In a heart-pounding race against time, Karla begins a high-speed pursuit and will stop at nothing to save her son’s life.
This film was directed by Luis Prieto from a screenplay by Knate Lee and co-stars Taos actor-director Arron Shiver. It was shot in 2014, but not released until now.
This film will be screened daily.
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.