Hillbilly Elegy: When I first saw the trailer for this, it looked a bit dull… but then everyone was raving about it online, so I figured I’d give it a chance.
As I watch the film – and even though it’s not out yet, it has a score of 5.7/10 on IMDB, which indicates that most people think it’s a bit ‘meh’… which means I’ll probably love it. Let’s find out…
The film centres around its writer, JD Vance (as an adult, played by Gabriel Basso, and as a young boy, played by Owen Asztalos (Paterson) – both of whom perform brilliantly), starting with bullies pushing the youngster underwater, and how he’s taught to fight back, and with the backing of his family, along with the mantra about how family is everything.
He lives in the close-knit town of Middletown, and it follows three generations of his family – at his level with his sister, Lindsay (Haley Bennett, The Magnificent Seven, The Devil All The Time), his mother Bev (Amy Adams – Vice, Batman Vs Superman) and his grandmother, affectionately referred to as Mamaw, which gives us a delightfully sarcastic Glenn Close (What Happened To Monday?), who’s always got a neat put-down for everyone she hates. And it’s a LOT of people. In fact, she has a look on her face, showing she’s in a constant state of anguish (example below), and when she’s told by one character that they hate her, she replies, “I don’t care you hate me. I ain’t in it for popularity(!)”
14 years later, he’s working in a restaurant, before going to Yale Law School in 2011 for Interview Week, where he’s looking to secure the job he’s been aiming for all his life, but there’s always going to be family drama that gets in the way, just when he needs to concentrate – literally – on the job at hand, along with living with his girlfriend (and now wife, in real life), Usha (Frieda Pinto – Guerrilla, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle).
Mixing brilliantly being the two timelines, as there’s lots of flashbacks to when JD was a boy, this is a strong, family-based drama with first-rate performances from all concerned, such as with Amy Adams showing how JD’s mum put him through hell as a child, thanks to certain noxious substances and her questionable choice in men, while his Mamaw’s addiction is watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day over and over again. As Barry Norman would conclude, “And why not…”
For the most part, JD’s afraid to tell Usha the in-depth truth about his family and I can understand that on his behalf. If you ever thought your own family was a little bit fucked-up at times, they’re nothing compared to his! Well, some might be bordering on close, but you have to have full-on self-destructive tendancies to match this lot.
There’s also home movie footage over the first part of the closing credits, which shows just how much Amy Adams and Glenn Close are made to look the spitting him of his mother and grandmother.
As I said, this is 5.7/10 on IMDB as I post this, and I can’t understand why. It’s bloody brilliant, and I can finally let Ron Howard off for his pitiful entry in the Star Wars canon with 2018’s godawful Solo: A Star Wars Story.
I don’t understand some of the negative press it’s getting. I think Glenn Close needs to go round to those journalists, dressed as Mamaw, smack them about the head and give them a piece of her mind 😀
Hillbilly Elegy is on Netflix from tomorrow, Tuesday November 24th, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 115 minutes
Release date: November 24th 2020
Format: 2.39:1 (Anamorphic Hawk Scope)
Director: Ron Howard
Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Karen Lunder
Screenplay: Vanessa Taylor
Novel: JD Vance
Music: David Fleming, Hans Zimmer
JD Vance: Gabriel Basso
Young JD Vance: Owen Asztalos
Bev: Amy Adams
Mamaw: Glenn Close
Lindsay: Haley Bennett
Usha: Freida Pinto
Bonnie – Mamaw 30s: Sunny Mabrey
Papaw: Bo Hopkins
Phillip Roseman: Stephen Kunken
Kameron: Dylan Gage
Young Bev: Tierney Smith
Matt: Jesse C Boyd
Young Lori Vance: Lucy Capri
Ray: David Atkinson
Ken: Keong Sim
Dr. Newton: Jason Davis
Sam: Jessica Miesel
Brett: Chase Anderson
Mr. Selby: David Jensen
Pamela Walters: Amy Parrish
Kevin: Jonothon Mitchell
Sally Coates: Deja Dee
Lori: Sarah Hudson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.