A Yale law student is forced to return to his small Appalachia hometown after his mother overdoses on heroin, causing him to reflect on his childhood.
Hillbilly Elegy (2020)
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Vanessa Taylor
Starring Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso,
Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins, Owen Asztalos
Based on the memoir by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy has been trashed relentlessly since its release on Netflix last month. People called it trite, predictable, racist, political, boring, and I could go on. It was insane. It put me off of wanting to watch it until, honestly, I was bored. I couldn't believe how off the mark so many people were. People got upset mainly because of the way it depicts the people of Appalachia, and I guess people found it to be (somehow) political. Let me set the record straight on Hillbilly Elegy. It's not political even once, it deals with severe family trauma that many people (regardless of race) have been forced to deal with across this country, and it's honest about the sort of family dynamic it depicts. Families aren't perfect. The Waltons don't exist. We have to deal with dark shit from time to time, but we still love them. I was absolutely blown away, and I am furious that this incredible movie was dragged into our constant political correctness bitch-fit that never stops.
I think Amy Adams and Glenn Close both deserve to win Oscars for their performances in this movie. Adams plays Beverly, our hero J.D.'s junkie mother who has been selfish, abusive, and manipulative to both her children their entire lives. Adams plays such a despicable human being, but her inherent charm keeps you from fully hating her. And on the other side, you have Close as Bev's mother Mamaw, J.D.'s grandmother and the only real parental figure he ever had. Mamaw is a sour, outrageous, brutally honest character who cares more about her family than anything else. Both of these women deliver career-defining performances in this movie, and help make it a winner in my book. But Gabriel Basso is no slouch, and neither is Freida Pinto or Haley Bennett. The entire cast delivers.
I want to go on record defending this movie. It has an incredible, humanizing story of one man's struggle to accept his family for their many flaws. It's not about Appalachia or Trump or racism or whatever else the critics are unfairly lumping the movie in with simply because it has "hillbilly" in the title. This is a movie about what it means to be family, and how J.D. Vance came from what many would consider a toxic upbringing to become a Yale law graduate and a family man. It's a story about the American dream, really, and I think that upsets people right now. I think there are people out there who don't believe the American dream exists anymore. And they might be right. But films like this exist to remind us that it is still possible to put aside the wrongs of your life and strive for what you believe to be right. I want this film to succeed because of that.