An elegy that is particularly lacking in hillbillies as we know and love them. Hillbilly elegy is an embarrassing surface-level drama by Oscar-winning actor Ron Howard, a memoir adaptation that lacks soul but is much exaggerated. ugly Performances in search of justification. Not as terrible as pedestrians Hillbilly elegy is thoroughly wasted material.
Although the film stars Gabriel Basso and Owen Asztalos as the main characters (old and young) attract the attention of the main actresses Amy Adams and Glenn Close. Adams plays a version of her trashy character in The fighterOnly this time, it’s like making fun of SNL. Scene after scene, she brings emotion to the role, but overall something seems … to be over. There is nothing to hold on to here, no emotional arc, or some comical absurdity or purpose for their character, other than to exist as a predictably unpredictable creature who makes bad decisions and causes chaos. She’s a wrecking ball, and not necessarily a good one. Close, meanwhile, offers more heart – as terrifying as it looks – but still remarkably little depth. She’s playing a sketch over and over and making her best hillbilly impersonator, but what’s the point?
This lack of depth for the film, based on the memoirs of J.D. Based on Vance, the A-list actresses involved face real challenges. For the poor actors who J.D. have to play yourself, this is a real death knell. I hate to say it, but both actors seem to have been cast because of their resemblance to the writer rather than their acting talent. They play in just about every scene that requires emotion – that is, most scenes – though it’s hard to tell how much they are or the painful material that the complexities of the socially derided and often misunderstood subclass doesn’t quite seem to tap into to be shown here. The film actually only spends one scene “in the hills”; The rest is focused on portraying these people as drug addicts or simply bad dressers or, in Vance’s case, someone trying to get away from it all.
Of course it is and should not be that simple. There’s love and family ties here and nostalgia for childhood, regardless of experience, but the theatrical version (sorry, Netflix version) of Hillbilly elegy does not seem to understand the networking of at all. The characters talk about it, but Howard never makes us feel that.
When it’s all said and done, the movie just comes out so cheap. Howard, a somewhat vicious director, despite having made several very good, serious films, doesn’t seem to have tried very hard here. That’s probably unfair, but the aesthetics, tone, and ultimate product just don’t align with the subject at hand. For Adams and Close, who for some reason are still receiving awards, doing so cheesy and ridiculous is an achievement no director should boast, and yet here we are Hillbilly elegy, a poem to nothing. At least nothing important.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.