Hillbilly Elegy – The Movie

| November 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

Rita and I watched Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix last night. I didn’t know much about the movie, but was familiar with the book. I had a vague negative sense about it. I know it was a phenomenon when it first came out. Not having read it and just knowing about it from reviews and news coverage, it seemed that, at first, it was hailed as an explanation for the alienation in rural America that explained the election of Trump. Then, I got the sense that opinion changed a bit and the author, JD Vance, had become an apologist for Trump voters, that he down played race and based their support of Trump on economic factors. I happen to believe that race plays a very large role in Trump’s support, so I was not really up for an apologia for the moral standing and victim hood of Trump voters. To be fair, my views of the movie and the author of the book were not based on anything I knew or could point to. Which is another way of saying they could be totally wrong.

In fact, as applied to the movie, those opinions were totally wrong. The movie has no politics in it, at all. It is just the story of a young man overcoming the challenges of growing up in rural Kentucky/Ohio to getting into and succeeding at Yale Law School. And when I say “just,’” I don’t mean to diminish the movie. It is a very good movie, which due to the above, surprised me.

Frankly, there were a number of surprises. I was surprised the Ron Howard directed it and it showed. It is a quality movie, both the story and the cinematography. Also, I was surprised that Amy Adams and Glenn Close were in it. Both actresses performed brilliantly. Glenn Close was almost unrecognizable as the cigarette smoking, profane and shabby grandmother. Amy Adams plays the chubby, drug addicted mother. Seems like she really gained some weight for the role, which is a true sign of commitment by an actor. Not as much as Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, but close, but still impressive.

In end, it was a compelling story that gave a real sense of what’s it’s like to grow up in a dysfunctional family in rural America. Howard doesn’t sugar coat the experience. This ain’t no Andy Griffith. The layers of trauma are peeled like an onion throughout the movie. In the end, it’s not about heroes and villains, it more about the human experience and how people cope.

Based on the end credits with pictures of the real people depicted in the movie, It seems like many of the actors were chosen, at least in part, for their resemblance to the people they played. It’s kind of remarkable, particularly the Glenn Close character.

In the end, it was a good movie and I recommend it.


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