Destin Daniel Cretton's adaptation of Jeanette Walls' memoir has a lot of problems, but it may still dredge a long waited Best Acting Oscar out of the Academy for Woody Harrelson. Oft times films like this highlight a great perfomance that turns what would be a forgettable exercise into an acting clinic.


Harrelson has already been nominated twice - "The Messenger" (2009) and "The People vs. Larry Flint" - but passed over for Christoph Waltz and Geoffrey Rush respectively. Yet his output and versitilty has never waned in even marginal films. His performances in "Rampart" (2011), "Zombieland" (2009), "Seven Psychopaths" (2012), "Transiberian" (2008), and of course "Natural Born Killers" (1994) were all terrific well nuanced interpretations.

This time, he plays Rex, a man we first meet sifting through a garbage dumpster for food just as his daughter Jeanette (Brie Larson) is getting into a cab with her fiance David (Max Greenfield). With him is his wife Rose (Naomi Watts), also suffling through the trash. Rex begis ranting against the cab driver while Jeanette shrinks in the back seat from utter shame. The year is 1989.


The film is then a continuous flashback of Jeanette's childhood and the vagabond life her family lived while Rex spent his days convincing them they didn't need money. It's a brainwashing that worked effectively on Rose as she even tries to push off food as a temporary thing compared to her paintings.


When Jeanette tries to cook that dinner, she burns herself leaving a lifetime scar.

That is the theme of the film. The scars that parents inflict on their children whether they realize it or not. Jeanette remembers when Rex decided to teach her to swim by nearly drowning her three times. His dogged determination to instill whatever vales he had led to his kids dogged determination to hurry up and leave.


This is the second time Cretton and Larson worked together, the first time was with his feature film debut, the very good "Short Term 12" which allowed Larson to display her acting chops. Brie does a decent job here, but because of all the flashbacks her character is overshadowed by the performance of the younger Jeannette by Ella Anderson. The younger Jeanette idolizes her dad not yet realizing what he is doing to her.


Soon enough you begin to lock in on Rex as the delusional alcoholic whose basic lesson in life is to run from the creditors. He then retreats back to his mother's home and reveals yet his own screwed up childhood.


Watts does a great job as the doting wife who drank the Kool-Aid Rex is serving and sticks with him despite the fact she is neglecting her children. Everyone else are mainly accessories to Harrelson's character, though technically Larson is the lead character. She does a great job but Anderson's younger Jeanette is a much more developed character.


Cretton's choppy direction leads to the film being less of a memoir about Jeanette than it is an editorial about Rex. And Harrelson shines above all. This is his "Training Day" or "Monster's Ball".


"Glass House" stands as a showcase of one of the best acting performances of the year as Woody Harrelson's body of work takes center stage. An incredible multi-layered performance in a film that might well be forgotten otherwise.   -- GEOFF BURTON