The Glass Castle Shatters Expectations By Its Examples Of Poverty

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I would highly recommend The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle (2017) directed by Destin Daniel Cretton to anyone who needs a good laugh and cry! I believe that anyone who is of a mature age can enjoy the memoir and film because we, as the audience, can find pieces of ourselves in the down-to-earth characters that are real, authentic people who have walked among us. We can relate to the spectacularly dysfunctional Walls family for our own personal reasons. Based on the standards of importance and accuracy, The Glass Castle (2017) is an effective adaptation of Walls’s memoir because the director brings the emotion and spirit of the family to life by using the memoir—and Walls herself—as a guide.

The question at issue for Cretton was essentially how to create an effective adaptation of Walls’s memoir published in 2005. The purpose of Cretton creating this film was to put a story out into the world that deserves to be shared; that many people can relate to and find inspiration in. Cretton prioritized how real the characters felt to Walls, especially when he, his team, and Walls collaborated on the film. Cretton stayed thoroughly informed throughout the entirety of filming. He wanted to capture the Walls’ life in as truthful a way as possible to honor their family. In an interview with The Playlist, Cretton said he and Walls talked about the movie throughout the filming period to receive her feedback (Perez).

Cretton’s interpretation of The Glass Castle (2017) was as accurate as he could make it, even with scene alterations. Some aspects of the film were tweaked for the sake of the audience’s perception. In my opinion, one of the biggest movie adaptation choices made by Cretton and Walls was the lack of details of how terrible life was for the Walls family in Welch, West Virginia (Nicolaou). The Walls siblings were so deeply, traumatically impacted by their experience of staying with their grandmother—especially when their grandmother sexually assaulted Brian, Jeannette’s brother (Walls 146). Of course, the scene mentioned previously was not included in the movie for the sake of the audience and their emotional/mental wellbeing. Putting a scene like that in a movie for many people to see can be uncomfortable and triggering for those who have PTSD with similar incidents. On another note, in the movie, Walls’s husband had a noticeable role, while in the memoir and in actuality, he was not acknowledged for supporting Walls on her journey until the end of the book (Nicolaou). In the book, Walls’s rise as a successful journalist in New York is mainly told through the process of her climbing the ladder towards professional journalism. The movie, in comparison, focuses more on her destination and the elite lifestyle she lives once she becomes a well-known journalist, focusing on the destination rather than the journey (Nicolaou). Another example of an adaptation change made to film is this: Rex Walls, the author’s father, had many odd jobs as he tried to support his family in the book. The movie portrayed Rex as an unemployed alcoholic (Nicolaou). Although he was an alcoholic, he picked up as many jobs as he could to make ends meet for the family (and to buy more alcohol). The Walls’ endured countless arduous periods throughout their time together. Some key concepts expressed through the movie include strength, hope through dark times, and the creation of a self-made life. The characters in the movie—especially Jeannette, her siblings, and her mother—showed immense strength and hope through being verbally abused, physically abused, and mentally abused by relatives and, in some cases, by Rex. Walls created a self-made life for herself. She went from living in a state of deep poverty in her childhood and teenage years to becoming a high-profile journalist and best-selling author.

To put everything into context, the adaptation was released to theaters in 2017. The following events that occurred during 2017 while the film was released to theaters include: Donald Trump’s inauguration in the U.S. Office, the Women’s March in reaction to Trump’s inauguration, the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting, and the tensions that grew between the U.S. and North Korea (spurting patriotism across the nation). The film deals with numerous mature situations, such as verbal and physical abuse, poverty, sexual assault, and violence. Cretton assumed that his audiences would be young adults and older, and he assumed they would be able to handle the mature content mentioned previously. Cretton assumed that the majority of the audience would have read the memoir to understand the full details that did not make it to the big screen. Based on numerous online reviews, it is implied that the audience appreciated the final product of The Glass Castle (2017) film adaptation. Although there are many critics of the film, audiences were mainly pleased with the film’s ability to stick close to the original memoir. Coming from Cretton’s point of view, the success of the film boded over well after its release. Before he directed The Glass Castle (2017), he had directed several films that are considered to fall under the drama and indie genres. A few films he directed before and after The Glass Castle (2017) include, I Am Not a Hipster (2012), Short Term 12 (2013), and Just Mercy (2019). Cretton was a bit worried at the beginning of filming The Glass Castle (2017). He wanted it to go above and beyond Walls’s expectations, which, later in an interview, she said the film accomplished much more than what she could have imagined (“Jeannette Walls Official Movie Interview”). Adapting The Glass Castle (2017) was challenging for Cretton. In an interview presented by the YouTube channel named ScreenSlam, he said, “I called Gil [the producer] back and begged him to let me be a part of it, and that was kind of the beginning of a very long adaptation process and learning how to adapt a screenplay for the first time” (“Destin Daniel Cretton Official Movie Interview”). Alternatively, Cretton, who is forty-one years old, may have wanted to continue gaining experience as a young director and make more money.

While the movie does have some scenes that do not exactly match up with experiences from Walls’s memoir, it is generally accurate. The level of accuracy was vital to Walls and Cretton. In another YouTube interview presented by ScreenSlam, when discussing how he was able to bring the characters to life, Cretton said, “You couldn’t really create these characters if you’re writing fiction…they do things that are so unexpected that often just seem like too unbelievable to put into a story…” (“Destin Daniel Cretton Official Movie Interview”). Walls was so impressed with how accurate the cast was that she became emotional while seeing everyone in character for the first time because it felt as if she were looking into a mirror with her family. Seeing Woody Harrelson who portrayed Rex, her father who passed away in 1994, was especially difficult at first sight (Walls 280).

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The adaptation of The Glass Castle (2017) is incredibly important for audiences and for the memoir’s existence. Walls’s story deserves to be heard and shared, because many people across the world have gone through similar experiences and often times feel alone. I believe the film adaptation justifies the memoir. There were some parts in the memoir that were vital to the characters’ development, such as Walls’s journey becoming an experienced writer and Brian’s awful experience being sexually assaulted by his grandmother, but some scenes were altered and taken out altogether with intention. Nonetheless, books and films have the ability to share emotions and significant stories in their unique ways. Having these two processes intertwine strengthens Walls’s story and I have no doubt that both versions of The Glass Castle have helped people with a variety of backgrounds.

In conclusion, significant plot changes include excluding Brian’s traumatic experience in Welch, giving Walls’s husband a bigger role with bigger influences, highlighting Walls’s successes more than the journey of how she arrived at that point, and portraying Rex as an unemployed alcoholic. The tweaks to the film may seem insignificant, but I believe they shaped the story differently than how it was originally told. The adapted storyline is more suitable for audiences seeing as how several original scenes were graphic. I cannot begin to fathom how difficult it is to create a movie and share it with the world with budget constraints, resource constraints, and more. Cretton created the film as close to the book as he could and that impresses me to the fullest.

Works Cited

Cretton, Destin Daniel, director. The Glass Castle. Lionsgate, 2017.

“The Glass Castle: Destin Daniel Cretton Official Movie Interview.” YouTube, uploaded by ScreenSlam, 5 August 2017,

“The Glass Castle: Jeannette Walls Official Movie Interview.” YouTube, uploaded by ScreenSlam, 5 August 2017,

Nicolaou, Elena. “Everything The Glass Castle’s Movie Version Is Missing From the Book.” Refinery29, 11 Aug. 2017.

Perez, Rodrigo, and Charles Barfield. “Destin Daniel Cretton Talks Building 'Glass Castle' [Interview].” The Playlist, 11 Aug. 2017,

Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005. 

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