Ron Howard has directed all kinds of films in his 40-year directing career. He’s done biopics. He’s done period pieces. But this is the first time he’s directed a movie for a streaming service. Hillbilly Elegy is a combination of all of these things. This is quite different than everything he’s directed before.
J.D. Vance (played by Owen Aszalos and Gabriel Basso as a child and an adult, respectively) is a young man attending Yale when his story starts. It goes back and forth between the present day and the past when he was a teenager. It focuses on his relationship with his mother Bev Vance (Amy Adams) and his grandmother (Glenn Close). This was a tumultuous relationship at best, during both his childhood and the present day. Even though this story is basically about J.D. Vance, the stars of it are Amy Adams and Glenn Close. They both shine in their respective roles.
These types of stories have been done before: the type that has a man or woman telling their story from rags to riches, going from a tough upbringing to a successful businessman, athlete, musician, or such. These types of stories can be relatable to the masses. A lot of people can watch these films and get emotional because of how they bring out the feels. Hillbilly Elegy does that in spades.
This film had some production issues that made it hard to follow along with. The editing style can be confusing to some watching the film, going back and forth from past to present. The cinematography is a little clunky at times as well. Howard was going for a little grainy feeling to the film, but it was a little too much grain. Some of the acting by Amy Adams was a little too much. This was almost a turn-off!
All in all, Hillbilly Elegy was an enlightening film. It was a slice of life story that was most enjoyable. J.D. Vance’s story was very relatable to me and I’m sure many others watching it at home on Netflix. The acting was a little over the top, but effective to get the motivations of the characters across. Both Amy Adams and Glenn Close are definite Academy Award contenders. The movie is good, but not great. Ron Howard has done much better in his career.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media