Movie– I watched this emotional drama during my “Alexander Skarsgård” phase, following my seven season binge on True Blood.
What Maisie Knew is the heartbreaking story of a young girl subject to the wrath of her parents’ divorce. Hungry with greed, Maisie’s parents (played by Julianne Moore & Steve Coogan) force their daughter into the midst of a heated custody battle. Thrown from house to house, parent to parent, Maisie is repeatedly neglected and forgotten, with no sense of stability in her life.
Her mother, a hot-headed rockstar and her father, a distant art dealer, are too wrapped up in their own little worlds to provide a supportable life for their young daughter. Living in environments subject to drug addiction and neglect, Maisie is often left in the care of her longtime nanny, and the mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård).
I didn’t expect to get so emotionally wrapped up in the sorrowful and whirlwind life of Maisie. The acting was spot on in this film–I adore Julianne Moore, and obviously Alexander Skarsgård. Maisie is played by newcomer Onata Aprile, who I thought did a fantastic job capturing the complexity of the character. All I wanted was for someone to give her the love and care she deserved. Heartbreakingly mesmerizing, grab some tissues, just in case.
Book – Jeannette Walls recounts her unique and unstable childhood in The Glass Castle: A Memoir. From the outside, life looks like a never-ending adventure for Jeannette and her siblings. On good days, her father Rex’s wild imagination takes his family across the United States, a family of vagabonds high on wanderlust. But then the bad days came; the money ran out and all their dreams seemed to have expired.
Confined to a dismal town, Rex became a constant drunk, stealing the family’s dinner money to feed his need. Meanwhile, Jeannette’s mother, Mary was lost in her own world, an artist obsessed with a need for excitement, such that couldn’t be filled by caring for her young children. It was up to a young Jeannette and her siblings to take care of themselves, learning how to live and survive amid the escalating dysfunction and chaos.
Jeannette recounts her youth in a way that retains her parents’ dignity, as unstable as they were. Readers are able to see her parents as lost souls failing to reach their dreams, forced into a life they didn’t want. This struggle to find fulfillment in life is something we can all relate to.
Jeannette also wrote Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel, a prequel of sorts to The Glass Castle. The subtitle, A True Life Novel, gives readers a clue as to why the book is noted as fiction. The book was originally intended to be a biography on Jeannette’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, but the author was missing too much information for it to be categorized as completely biographical. However the powerful character of Lily Smith comes across just as vividly as the characters in Jeannette’s first memoir.
Book – This is the memoir of the great-great-great granddaughter of the industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Burden’s look back at her life contains very little warm sentiment. Perhaps her writing is catharsis for dealing with painful memories. She is the product of a dysfunctional family and a distinctly un-maternal mother, yet she recalls her past with acerbic humor. That sense of humor, and material drawn from the lifestyles of extremely privileged relatives combines for an interesting read.
Burden’s biography is populated with over-the-top characterizations of her family, servants, and numerous pets. These descriptions are often un-flattering, scandalous, and frequently successful in their aim to amuse. I admire the fact that she does not spare herself from this lampooning treatment. Burden begins her chronology at a point immediately after her father’s suicide, when she was approximately six years old. Her forthright portrait of her youthful self as a troublemaker who strove to emulate Wednesday from The Addams Family is disturbing and intriguing. Perhaps these traits are understandable for an individual who felt impoverished of family love.