Hillbilly Elegy Movie Review

Hillbilly Elegy Movie Review
From the moment the first trailer for "Hillbilly Elegy" was released, the internet declared it this year's obviously Oscar-contending movie to laugh at (we are all guilty of this - "Bohemian Rhapsody" anyone?) The trailer showed Amy Adams and Glenn Close's dialed-up acting as they brought the movie, based on the 2016 bestselling memoir by J.D. Vance, to life. As with most cases, the internet reaction was premature and heightened, because "Hillbilly Elegy," while mediocre to its core as a movie, is, for the most part, not deserving of premature sneers and jeers.

It doesn't help there has been growing animosity towards author Vance, who is the film's protagonist, for his political leanings and the depiction of his young life. The movie jumps around in time, starting with young J.D. (Owen Asztalos) growing up in Ohio with his mother Bev (Adams) and his sister Lindsay (Haley Bennett). They are constantly on the move, as Bev goes from relationship-to-relationship and has trouble keeping a job. She struggles with addiction, which causes friction with her kids, who are often left to their own devices to survive. Luckily, they have a no-nonsense grandmother, who they call Mamaw (Close), ready to step in when Bev isn't up for the job.
Fast forward a bit and the adult  J.D. (played by Gabriel Basso) is courting law firms for a job. He previously served in the Marines and now attends Yale, hoping to create for himself the life he was never provided. He has a girlfriend named Usha (Freida Pinto) and seems content with the path he is forging - though lingering money concerns always get in the way. One night, at an important dinner with prospective law firms, J.D. is called back home by Lindsay, as she informs him that their mother is in the hospital after an overdose. J.D. initially insists he can't go back home, but then drives all night to, once again, take care of his mother.

"Hillbilly Elegy" is a portrait of humble beginnings and trying to find your own place in life, only to realize you can't outrun your family. J.D. never wished to cut his mother out of his life completely, though it's often tempting; but at the end of the day, he knows she is still his mother. Bev's bitterness towards the world continues to be projected onto her son, who she deems too fancy for their Appalachian life.

Having read the source material, it seemed clear that "Hillbilly Elegy" was bound to find its way to the screen in a soap-operatic incarnation. The result feels like a Movie of the Week, presenting problems and hurdles for the characters to overcome in clichéd scenarios and obvious character arcs. Director Ron Howard's stature in Hollywood has been cemented, but the projects he attaches himself to, especially in the last several years, all feel like they are coming from a director-for-hire with little vision of what a story could be. Everything about "Hillbilly Elegy" feels completely straightforward.

Adams and Close have a lot they can chew on in their roles, and Adams' performance as Bev takes a great deal of oxygen out of a scene. She plays it big and loud, often distracting and missing the smaller moments when she is interacting with her children. Adams is a fine actress, one of the great ones working today, and always a joy to see. Here, she seems very aware that she is a six-time nominated performer with no Oscar sitting on her mantle. Close, for all of the showy aesthetics that come with playing Mamaw, anchors her character a bit more. Mamaw is loud and crass, sauntering around in oversized t-shirts and enormous glasses, but Close infuses a world-weariness in her that was missing from the book (where she has portrayed as a caricature).

There will be a temptation by voting bodies at the end of the year to heap praise upon "Hillbilly Elegy" for its inspirational tone and transformative performances, but there's no true emotion coming from the screen. The constant timeline jumping never allows the audience to sink into the story in any meaningful way, and its intentions often appear too blunt and obvious to ever feel real.

"Hillbilly Elegy" will debut on Netflix starting November 24, after a brief theatrical run.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Hillbilly Elegy Movie Review Hillbilly Elegy Movie Review Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 19, 2020 Rating: 5


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