The Films of Destin Daniel Cretton
I Am Not a Hipster
Short Term 12 (December 9/13)
Written and directed by Destin Cretton, Short Term 12 follows Brie Larson's Grace, a foster-care staff member, as she's forced to confront a variety of personal issues in the wake of a troubled new arrival (Kaitlyn Dever's Jayden). Filmmaker Cretton has infused Short Term 12 with a deliberately-paced and low-key feel that proves an ideal match for his subdued screenplay, with the early part of the movie devoted mostly to the various happenings within the title care facility (eg the staff prepares to say goodbye to one of their charges, Grace confronts her boss over a bureaucratic issue, etc). It's interesting stuff that's perhaps not quite as engrossing as one might've hoped, and yet there's little doubt that the film benefits substantially from the pervasively authentic atmosphere - with this vibe perpetuated and heightened by the efforts of a uniformly strong cast. (Larson's absolutely mesmerizing performance is matched by an impressive supporting cast that features, among others, John Gallagher Jr., Keith Stanfield, and Rami Malek.) There's little doubt, then, that Short Term 12 improves steadily as it progresses, with Cretton's growing emphasis on Grace's personal issues, ie her increasingly compelling relationship with Dever's Jayden, paving the way for an impressively captivating second half. (It doesn't hurt, either, that Cretton has peppered this portion of the movie with several unexpectedly moving interludes, including a riveting sequence in which Jayden reads a disturbing self-penned story to Grace.) By the time the effective (and affecting) final stretch rolls around, Short Term 12 has definitively established itself as an engaging, emotional little drama that bodes well for Cretton's future endeavors.
The Glass Castle
Based on a book by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle follows Brie Larson's Jeannette as she attempts to put her tumultuous childhood behind her and settle down with Max Greenfield's David - with the movie also boasting a series of flashbacks detailing Jeanette's experiences growing up with two less-than-responsible parents (Woody Harrelson's Rex and Naomi Watts’ Rose Mary). Filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton delivers a picture that couldn’t be farther away from his subdued, engrossing breakthrough, Short Term 12, as The Glass Castle suffers from as generic and meandering an atmosphere as one could possibly envision - with the movie’s hopelessly bland feel compounded by a uniformly one-dimensional and unsympathetic roster of central characters. This is especially true of Harrelson’s Rex; despite the actor’s best efforts, Rex comes off as an almost stunningly by-the-numbers abusive father and it is, as such, impossible to ever buy him as someone that anybody, let alone a wife and children, would want to spend even a few minutes around. It’s likewise impossible to work up any interest in the character’s ongoing exploits, with, especially, a long, interminable stretch detailing his efforts at quitting drinking standing as an obvious low point in the proceedings. The seemingly endless midsection is chock-a-block with similarly misguided and hopelessly tedious interludes, and there does reach a point at which the viewer begins to feel trapped in this grimy, grungy world (ie it’s all just so unpleasant). Cretton's efforts to elicit an emotional reaction from the viewer in The Glass Castle's final few minutes are nothing short of laughable, with the movie ultimately a complete and total misfire that forces one to question their admiration for Short Term 12 (ie could a filmmaker responsible for something as misbegotten as this mess really have knocked it out of the park with their last feature?)