Based on author J. D. Vance’s memoir, ‘Hillbilly Elegy‘ is a drama film directed by Ron Howard and scored by Hans Zimmer and David Fleming. It was made by Imagine Entertainment and released through Netflix.
Yale law student J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) is trying to secure a summer internship with a high profile firm until he gets a call from his sister Lindsay (Haley Bennett) that their mother Bev (Amy Adams) is in the hospital after overdosing on heroin. J.D. tells his girlfriend Usha (Freida Pinto) and heads back home as he reminisces about his life. As a younger JD (Owen Asztalos), he has a tumultuous relationship with his mother that is often abusive. His only ally is the sometimes cruel, but understanding Mamaw (Glenn Close) who encourages both Lindsay and JD to be better, but to always come home to family.
Amy Adams steals the show as Bev. There is no question. She owns the role and brings it to life in both the flashbacks and the main story. Her emotional range is on full throttle, making you both pity her and rage against her. Gabriel Basso and Owen Asztalos both did a good job of playing J.D. at each stage of his life, making you feel for his circumstances. Glenn Close was in full powerhouse mode. Her presence as the family matriarch was brilliant and shining. Haley Bennett’s role was smaller, but she did an excellent job of being a voice of reason in the chaos.
As for the story, J.D. Vance’s memoir is one of the most poignant explorations of the hillbilly life and the cycle of violence, poverty, and despair that comes in those neighborhoods. Now, I am not prepared to say that the movie is anywhere near the level of the book it is based on, but it definitely captured the story itself and how family shapes us.
Ron Howard’s crafting of the plot, complemented by the excellent score by Hans Zimmer and Mark Fleming, was superb. He showed the imperfections of the Vance family without parodying or mocking it. At times, it frustrates you and evokes emotions because one thing Howard shows you about the family chaos is that this family could be yours. It shows how beauty can be found in brokenness and that is applause-worthy for the movie.
Bottom line, Hillbilly Elegy does not match the book in its poignancy, but it is still an excellent movie that tells the story of a family in crisis, but always finds a way to not only survive but exceed their circumstance.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Drug-related content, Violence
FAVORITE QUOTE: Everyone in this world is one of three kinds: a good terminator, a bad terminator and neutral.
Check out the trailer below:
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