The Glass Castle

Destin Daniel Cretton and Brie Larson, the director and star of the affecting indie drama Short Term 12 (2013), reunite for this disappointing adaptation of Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir. The ambitious narrative alternates episodes from Walls’s childhood—when she lived a nomadic existence with her alcoholic father (Woody Harrelson), artist mother (Naomi Watts), and three siblings—with others from her adulthood as she learns to come to terms with her dysfunctional past. Short Term 12 was nuanced and heartfelt, but this feels overstated and hollow: Cretton wants to make an old-fashioned melodrama but fails to stylize the material in any compelling way, and his efforts to elicit larger-than-life performances from Harrelson and Watts backfire (in fact the two actors have never been worse).