Title – Hillbilly Elegy (2020)
Director – Ron Howard (Apollo 13)
Cast – Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto
Plot – Based on the true story of author and Ohio native J.D Vance (Basso), whose working-class family led by single mother Bev (Adams) and grandmother Mamaw (Close) helped form his life for better and worse as he looked to make something of his life outside of the poverty and trauma of his childhood.
“Don’t make us your excuse”
Review by Eddie on 04/12/2020
If you ever wanted to see Netflix attempting to fish for Oscars, you need look no further than the streaming giants latest high-profile awards baiter The Hillbilly Elegy.
Directed by the seemingly stuck in a rut Ron Howard, whose been unable to achieve much of late since his last truly solid effort in the form of 2013’s Rush with In the Heart of the Sea, Inferno and Solo: A Star Wars Story all disappointing efforts in the grand scheme of things, Elegy is based on the true story of author J.D Vance’s colourful upbringing at the hands of the “Mountain People” of his family that includes troubled single mother Bev, cantankerous but kind-hearted grandmother Mamaw and softly spoken sister Lindsay.
Taking a decades spanning approach that takes us from present to past with little care or consideration as Vance tries to push forward with his life as an adult and overcome the traumas of his chaotic childhood just above the poverty line, Elegy tries its hardest to showcases just how hard life is for these people but there’s a distinct air of Hollywood/Hallmark about Howard’s film that never feels like it earns its stripes as it tries desperately to make us root for Vance to overcome his early life to achieve a successful outcome.
The best of these type of family centric award winning dramas feel real and lived in, almost documentary like at times is their realism and accuracy but while Howard may be sticking close to Vance’s tales from his book, something about this product as a film never clicks into gear, even though its not the “worst” film of the year as its been labelled, more like one of the most disappointing when you consider the talent involved.
Howard’s proven many times previously that he can handle a loaded ensemble and powerful story but his direction of Elegy is one that is akin to a director on sleepwalking mode, nothing about the film feels overly “prestige” while detrimentally the usually fantastic Amy Adams delivers one of her most over the top and seemingly miscast performances as the drug-addled Bev.
Many a time throughout the film Adam’s overacting and almost caricature redneck routine doesn’t ring true and takes away a lot of the films chances of becoming emotionally connecting.
The work of the films other players is slightly better, Gabriel Basso as the adult J.D and Haley Bennett do decent work while the Oscar hunting Close may veer at times into Adams overacting territory but brings her turn as the wise and determined older family matriarch into a solid direction with her committed role one of the highlights of the otherwise by the numbers affair.
Final Say –
A film that feels familiar and never at home with itself as it tries desperately to make us care as it shoves its hapless characters and moments into our faces, Hillbilly Elegy has a few redeeming moments that save it from complete failure but this is neither as engaging or powerful as it clearly thinks it is.
2 trading cards out of 5