Hillbilly Elegy

Here you go, Krista.

I had not planned on watching Hillbilly Elegy, but it is the new Ron Howard film and starred two legit star actors in Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Then, my colleague asked if there would be a review coming for it. Add that together and I decided to give it a try.

Based on a true story from a novel entitled Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, a memoir by J.D. Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy Netflix film was not very good. I have not read the book, but my research indicated that the book dealt heavily with the hillbilly culture from Kentucky. There is very little to none of that in this film.

The Netflix movie lacks subtlety and spends more time with melodramatic claptrap, and amazing actors who are unable to do much more than scream. Amy Adams and Glenn Close are clearly trying for their Oscar nominations, but there is very minimal depth to either of their characters and their weird wigs are definitely a distraction.

The two actors are strong so there are a few scenes that work (such as one involving an Algebra test), but there are few quiet moments to give these women layers.

Owen Asztalos plays young J.D. and does an adequate job, but his character is all over the place. Older J.D. is played by Gabriel Basso, who is a law student waiting for an important interview when he gets a call from his sister Lindsay (Haley Bennett) with news that his mother had overdosed on heroin and was in the hospital. J.D. headed for home with a full load of baggage.

Flashbacks were disjointed and did not fit together well. It usually meant we got to see Adams screeching in anger or anguish or Close making faces in her bizarre wig. Adams’ character’s motivations are barely mentioned and goes so fast that you may miss it.

The movie poster calls this an inspiring true story, but the fact is, I was not inspired by anything. The idea of J.D. overcoming his past was just touched upon and it is hard to believe when it happens.

The acting is fine, as you would expect it to be. The story was lacking, filled with over-the-top, eye-rolling moments and the characters were stereotypes. There are plenty of better Ron Howard movies to watch than this one.

2 stars

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