Jeanette Wall’s memoir The Glass Castle was made into a biographical film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton in 2017. In both the book and the film, Rex Walls is Jeanette Walls’ father. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Rex is quite accurate in comparison to the initial description in the novel. Cretton manages to capture this controversial character’s essence in an impressive way.
One way that Cretton manages to portray Rex’s character the same as he is portrayed in the book is his violent nature. In the hospital scene in the film, Rex (Woody Harrelson) gets into an argument with the doctor about how he is taking care of his children and for a moment, the audience fears he might hit the doctor. In the book, Walls narrates that sometimes her father, ″came home in such a drunken fury that Mom usually hid while we kids tried to calm him down. He broke windows and smashed dishes and furniture until he’d spent all his anger…‶ (112).
We can do it today.
Likewise, Rex’s habit of cutting corners is quite clear from both the book and the film. In the film, Rex gets Brian to scream at the nurses’ station to get the nurses distracted as he sneaks Jeanette out of the hospital without the paying the bill. In the book, Walls describes instances when her father would ‶open a bank account, and a week or so later, he would withdraw all the money from a teller inside the bank while Mom withdrew the same amount from the drive through window″ (111).
Despite Rex’s faults, Cretton and Walls both capture Rex’s love for his children and his wish for them to do well in life. Despite Rex’s unorthodox way of showing it and despite his many faults, he was a father that loved and always looked out for them. This is brought out quite clearly in both the book and the film. In the film, in a bid to push his daughter to do better, Rex (Woody Harrelson) tells his daughter Jeanette that she was “born to change the world, not just add to the noise” (Cretton). In the same way, Rex uses an arguably unpleasant method by forcefully throwing Jeanette in the water to the point of drowning and then saving her again. However, he assures his daughter that he loves her and that she has to learn to conquer her fears. Rex tells Jeanette, “you can’t cling to the side your whole life, that one lesson every parent needs to teach a child is”If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim” (Walls 66). Although Rex’s methods may seem uncouth, he eventually teaches his daughter to swim on her own.
- The Glass Castle. (2017). [film] Directed by D. Cretton. Hollywood: Gil Netter Productions.
- Walls, J. (2005). The Glass Castle. London, UK: Virago: Little, Brown Book Group.