Director: Destin Daniel Cretton.
Cretton directs a story based on the true memoirs written by Jeanette Walls, which was first published in 2005 and spent five years on the New York Times Bestseller list. The story, told from Jeanette's perspective is about her growing up in poverty, with her dysfunctional family and focuses on her relationship with her alcoholic father.
I can see some people striking similarities with last year's Captain Fantastic, which is understandable given the premise of a nomadic family, but it's a completely different narrative, plus being based on a true story. It's very much Jeannette Walls story, who appeared to be heavily invested in the production being an set advising and sharing her accounts to help steer the cast.
Jeanette (Larson) is the second eldest of four children, who like any other typical child only has admiration and adoration for her family. The four of them living with their parents, Rex (Harrelson) the erratic and often drunk father who still manages to express some higher understanding with his rhetoric and their Mother Rose Mary (Watts) who's just as delusional and obsessed with her struggling hobby of being a painter. All of whom frequently pack up and jump town when things get too much for them, setting themselves in whatever available squalor there can find next.
Their parenting skills are equally uncomfortable to watch, even for someone, like myself, who isn't a parent themselves with their complete lack of common sense but there are moments of almost surreal and beautiful gestures which strangely have some strong moral values that many people possibly miss or overlook today, but this by no means accuses the poor parenting put upon the children.
There's outstanding performances from the entire cast, Larson, Harrelson, Watts and most notably Ella Anderson who, in my opinion outshines her older self played by Larson. But Harrelson steals the film, playing a character that's both likeable and unnervingly terrible at the same time and is actually an extreme of what most people actually are and are to afraid to admit. This film is a perfect example of his acting capabilities
The production and direction is really good, it's well paced and the costumes and set designs really help portray the story without having the script going to great detail which I can only imagine Walls' memoirs would have to do. Some of the sequences are well captured, some being long complete takes that bring the audience closer to what's happening. Joel P. West does a grand score and soundtrack, with a good mixture of uplifting and somber strings that adds a gentle, peaceful quality to the film. His track "Summer Storm" was perfect.
It's an extraordinary and equally bleak true story that, literally is an insightful look of family values or a recent generation, but I can see many disliking this, the outcome and of course because of the characters, but whether you like or understand this film will rely mostly on your own life experiences. I feel there a lot more to this story that I find difficult to explain myself without digressing into a whole different essay, but in short, it's circles acceptance, forgiveness and a rare appreciation of someone who only tried the best way and possible only way they know. It's a clear example of how to be the better person that is born from such struggles.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 5 for Harrelson's and Anderson's performances.