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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Destin Daniel Cretton

The Glass Castle (2017)

Every family’s a little crazy. Obviously some, more than others.

Though Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) grew up to be a smart, tough and powerful gal writing for a column, she had quite a rough upbringing. Her parents, for lack of a better word, were hippies in the sense that they didn’t care too much about certain materialistic things. You know, things like a house, or bills, or even school. This led Jeannette and her relatives to having to grow up by themselves and save up money, day in and day out, in hopes that they’ll one day make it out. And the father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), was probably the biggest problem of them all. Not only did he love himself a drink, but he was so controlling, he wouldn’t let anybody out. The mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), was just always there, painting, and trying her hardest to ensure that her family stayed together. Honestly, it was a lost cause which is why, when Jeannette grows up, she doesn’t really want much to do with her parents. But the older she gets, the more she realizes that no matter how hard she tries, her parents and her family’s legacy is something that she can never, ever avoid.

Daddy’s little girl. So long as daddy ain’t drinkin’.

The Glass Castle is an odd movie that felt like it should be a whole hell of a lot darker, meaner and more disturbing, than it actually plays out. It’s literally a story about a drunken-deadbeat of a father who forced his family to stay in poverty, not really depend on anything but him, and as a result, sort of scar them for life. And that story, as is told, kind of works; the Glass Castle has an honest way about telling its story where we get the sense that no matter how many years go by, the scars will still always be there.

But that’s only one aspect of the story. The other aspect is this notion that the movie also wants to praise the drunken-deadbeat father for being charming, thinking for himself, and always being able to provide an argument in a justified manner. It’s almost as if we’re supposed to hate him for all of the awful, almost unforgivable actions that he commits throughout the two hours, but also love him for these faults, too. Once again, it’s odd and it never quite works together, and it’s all the more disappointing considering that this is coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton who, a few years ago, shook the airwaves a few years ago with Short Term 12.

Which also starred Brie Larson who, for some reason, feels wasted here, as does everyone else.

She turned out all right. Right?

The only person in the cast who gets to do the most is Woody Harrelson and oddly enough, even he feels like a problem for the movie. Though it’s not entirely his fault – the writing’s too confusing – it still shows us that no matter how hard he tries, even Woody Harrelson’s charm can’t save a character who is, at the end of the day, an asshole. We get constant flashbacks of him being something of a nice father, who tells his kids to inspire more, but we soon find out that he only says that because he can’t support them in any other way. We also get constant flashbacks of him connecting with Jeannette and we get the sense that they truly did have a loving relationship growing up, and constantly depending on one another, but then we also find out that the father didn’t want her to leave the nest and sabotaged her career, at one point.

It’s really weird, honestly. And it feels like the movie never quite makes up what it wants to be about, or hell, what it even wants to say, about us, about this family, and about family as a whole, in general. The story itself is compelling and, on occasion, we’ll get some small glimmers of material that could have been further explored, in a much darker, much more adult-oriented movie, but the Glass Castle also feels like it’s playing very much for the made-for-TV crowd. It looks and has better acting than one of them, but it’s just as messy and uneven, making it a missed opportunity on all fronts.

Go back to indies, Destin. Please.

Consensus: While the original source-material leaves plenty of room for promise, the adaptation of the Glass Castle is a confused, mish-mash of melodrama, sap, and mixed messages about family, alcoholism, and coming-of-age.

4.5 / 10

“Who needs gas? Or electric? Or water? Or school? Or hell, anything else! We got family!”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Short Term 12 (2013)

Next time, just hug it out. That always seems to work better.

Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, has a bit of a wild past behind her, but is looking bright and hopeful towards her future. For starters, she loves her job and loves dishing out advice to any kid who needs it; she also is happily in love with her boyfriend/co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and looks to spend the rest of her life with him. On top of that, she’s just happy in general and is living the easy-going life like all young, twenty-year-olds should. However, when Grace finds out something that could alter the course of the rest of her life, she’s thrown a curve-ball as she has no idea what to do. And as if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, well then, they do once things at the foster-care facility begin to get a bit shaken-up once a new, very troubled girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up, and does not follow along with the rest of the other kids. But like Grace was and in ways, still is, there’s a lot more to the act that she uses as a front, and Grace will find the best possible way to get to the bottom of it, by any means possible.

Little flicks like this remind me why I love watching movies so much. Especially the movies you don’t know much about going into, except for the fact that it’s supposed to be good and that’s all. That’s exactly what happened to me going into this flick: I knew it was going to be good and I expected the best, and that’s exactly what I got. Except maybe a bit more. Like I said though, this is why I love watching movies; this is why I love not knowing too much before going in; and best of all, this is why I love having a movie blog where I tell everybody about little movies such as Short Term 12 because, let’s face it, most of you out there probably never have, and never will hear about this until it randomly pops-up on Netflix.

Well, that is until now. So consider this you’re wake-up call, fellow movie-lovers.

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

The balance this movie strikes between heart and humor is pitch perfect for many reasons, the main which being that it’s present in every scene. Watching these characters go about their day, say what’s on their mind and show what they feel or want to give to the others around them, is very interesting and touching, mostly because it all feels real and natural. A lot of this material has been touched-on before, but done in a way that’s almost like made-for-TV movie way. This time, it’s shown as painfully honest and as bleak as it can be, without any strings attached whatsoever. What you see is what you get with most of these characters, and some of them will take you by surprise with just how troubled and messed-up in the head they truly are.

However, such as is the fact with life, and it’s a fact that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t shy away from, nor does he throw in our face. He lets us understand these characters, the situations they’re thrown into, and gives them the circumstances for which they can choose to live by, if they have to. Cretton allows for this material to go into some very dark, disturbing places, but never lets go of it too far to where it feels like we’re watching a different movie. Don’t be fooled by words like “bleak” and “painfully honest” scare you away from something that’s actually more light-hearted and happy than it may sound; it just takes awhile to get to get you to realize how light-hearted and happy it truly is.

However, like I stated before: Such as is the fact with life. You never know when it’s going to make you happy, and you sure as hell never know when it’s going to make you sad. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere, and sometimes you can predict it, but just don’t have the right amount of power to stop it. And that’s not a judgement-call-of-character on you as a human-being or anything; it’s just the way we are wired. Cretton really shows us that being human, for all of its negatives and its positives, really is a beautiful thing that we should not take for granted. Some people don’t have the same type of life as you do, so stop bitchin’ about your WiFi not being located! Get out there, do something with your life, and make a difference!

Sorry if this review is sounding more like a preach, and less like a review, but that’s just what happens when I see a movie that allows me to think as much as this one did. But like I said, it’s a review, so on with the movie itself, folks!

I think where this movie really hits it’s sweet-spot is in the way it continues to hammer us down with emotion-after-emotion, and yet, never fully kills us to where we can’t watch anymore. Granted, by the end, it did get a bit too repetitive where I felt like I was watching the same conversation, happen with the same people, for the same reasons, but that’s just me being nit-picky. If I really wanted to judge this movie on it’s full merits, I’d tell you that it’s a very funny movie, that focuses on the witty interplay between it’s characters, but also doesn’t lose sight that most of them have, and still are, hurting to this day.

No other statement could have been truer for the character we have here of Grace, played so perfectly by Brie Larson, in a performance that I hope garners her more recognition and notice than just being known as “that Indie darling”. In fact, I have seen Larson’s face in quite a number of indies, most of them good, so it comes as to almost no surprise to me here that she’s great here, but the movie she chose is even better. Not only does the movie offer Grace all of the extra-baggage she needs to seem fully-dimensional and understandable in the way that she leads her life and why, but also allows Larson to show everything about her acting-ability that should make her a star by now. It won’t, but it’s worth a shine of hope I’d say.

"Are you even trying anymore with that facial-hair?"

Only thing in between them and their passionate kiss? His slacker/pseudo-hipster beard.

Everything about Larson is great here: She’s funny; she’s angry; she’s smart; she’s emotional; she’s dedicated; she’s a bit sexy; she’s sweet; and most of all, she’s hurting. Like all of us, Grace is hurting on the inside and rarely ever shows it. However, she does throw subtle hints to everybody around her and uses it as a way to connect with the kids she tends for, but not in a way to make her seem “cool” or “hip” with the kids; but more as a way to draw similarities between her and another person going through the same motions she went through. There’s a couple of beautiful scenes here where Grace really gets to the core of her character, as well as the others around her, but the best in my mind is when she gets a fairy-tale told to her from the newest, most troubled kid of them all. It’s a scene that starts off a bit funny, but gets very disturbing and sad by the end of it, where we see not only Grace’s true emotions come out, but the movies’ as well. We see Grace do all that she can to make everybody else’s life around her easier for the sake of mankind, and it mostly works. She forgets about herself sometimes and has to depend on herself for happiness, and like most of us, she can’t find it easily and usually tends to lash-out irrationally at the ones around her that mean the most.

In other words: Grace is like you or I. She’s a damaged soul, but she’s also very lovely to the ones around her and knows that with each and every smile you have and get a day, means a better life for you, and many more. Brie Larson makes Grace this thought-provoking, sweet and beautiful to watch, and if I don’t at least put her in my “Top Crush List” now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

And even though I may make it seem like this is just Larson’s show, and nobody else’s, don’t be mistaken, cause it isn’t. John Gallagher Jr. shares a loving, if sometimes playful chemistry with Larson and allows us to see him for a bit of a goof, but a charming one at that. Then again though, he’s not all fun and games. He does tend to get serious at times, and those scenes are probably the best of the movie because they’re more concerning him and Grace’s relationship, the type of movie-relationship that I really cared for, believed in, and was rooting for the whole time, even if it’s made evident to us that they’ve been together for quite some time and are happily in love. But still, you want them to stay together, forever. Kaitlyn Dever is also great as Jayden, the newest kid who’s brought in and causes a bit of a trouble, but is still smart, fresh, and funny enough to hold our interest. But, like with Gallagher Jr., her character isn’t all fun and games, and can get very touchy, and very sad at times, both of which feel earned and honest. Pretty much like this whole movie,

Consensus: Many will resonate towards Short Term 12, not because it touches those most affected by abuse and neglect, but because it teaches us all that having emotions, being inconsistent, laughing, crying, hugging, and feeling, are all apart of what makes us humans, and for that life-lesson, it’s a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen, especially for younger kids who need to see that they aren’t alone and can easily always look for help, if needed.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you'll toates be cool."

“I’ll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you’ll toates be cool.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net