Hillbilly Elegy (film)

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Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy (film).png
Official release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Screenplay byVanessa Taylor
Based onHillbilly Elegy
by J. D. Vance
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyMaryse Alberti
Edited byJames D. Wilcox
Music by
Production
company
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • November 11, 2020 (2020-11-11)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$45 million[3]
Box office$38,852[4]

Hillbilly Elegy is a 2020 American drama film directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay by Vanessa Taylor, based on the 2016 memoir of the same name by J. D. Vance, played as an adult by Gabriel Basso and as a youngster by Owen Asztalos. The film also stars Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, and Bo Hopkins. The story begins when a Yale law student must return to his family in Ohio after a family emergency, and follows his memories growing up there and in Kentucky. The title, Hillbilly Elegy, suggests a serious and somewhat reverent treatment of an otherwise looked-down-upon population.

After buying the rights to Vance's book in 2017, Imagine Entertainment announced Howard as the film's director. Netflix acquired the distribution rights in January 2019, and much of the cast joined that April. Filming took place from June through August in Georgia and Ohio.

Hillbilly Elegy was released in select theaters in the United States on November 11, 2020, then digitally on Netflix on November 24. The film was criticized, particularly for its screenplay and direction,[5] receiving three nominations at the Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Director for Howard, Worst Screenplay for Taylor, and Worst Supporting Actress for Close. However, the performances of some of the cast received praise, with Close receiving Supporting Actress nominations at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Adams's performance was also recognized by the Screen Actors Guild, with a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress. The film also received Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations for Best Hair and Makeup.

Plot[edit]

The film opens in Jackson, Kentucky, in 1997. An adult J. D. is looking back to this time, his teenage years, as he visits his family with his grandparents and mom, Bev, in their current home in Ohio.

Fourteen years later, J. D. is attending Yale University, working three jobs to pay his tuition, and dating a young woman named Usha. She has a summer internship in Washington D.C., and J. D. hopes to get one there as well. He attends an event to network in hopes of landing the internship, but then gets a call from his sister, Lindsay; Bev has just been rushed to the hospital after overdosing on heroin. Lindsay is overwhelmed by the situation as she is already busy supporting her three children. She asks J. D. to come home, which he feels conflicted about since he fears losing his shot at the internship.

He remembers growing up with the many conflicts he had with Bev, who is mentally and emotionally unstable, suffers from drug addiction, and always had trouble earning enough to take care of him and his sister, Lindsay. He remembers one such conflict where a fun day with Bev at a sports cards' store turns into an ordeal on the drive home, when, after an argument, Bev drives recklessly, stops abruptly on the side of the road, and repeatedly hits him. He runs out of the car to a nearby house and calls his grandmother, while a passing police officer intervenes. His grandparents come to pick him up and he gets Bev out of trouble by lying to the cops about what happened.

Back in 2011, J. D. makes up his mind and starts to drive to Ohio. He arrives at the hospital to find his mom yelling and making a scene. He finds out that the hospital intends to throw Bev out as she has no health insurance. J. D. gets a call and is informed that he has an interview at Yale tomorrow morning.

In 1997, J. D.'s grandfather dies and the family arranges a small funeral. Bev gets a job as a nurse and uses her position to steal drugs. She gets high, acts erratic, gets fired, and later breaks down over her father's death. In 2011, J. D. and Lindsay find their mother a bed at a private drug rehabilitation facility despite J. D.'s concern that Bev, having gone to rehab several times before, is incapable of overcoming her addiction. His fears prove founded when Bev refuses to go back to rehab.

In 1997, J. D., Lindsay, and Bev move into the home of her new husband, Ken. Bev continues to feed her addiction and neglect J. D. and Lindsay. J. D.'s grandmother, who had largely raised him in Bev's place, falls and is hospitalized with pneumonia. J. D. starts vandalizing and acting out with his new step-brother, Travis, and his friends. In 2011, her boyfriend Ray, tired of dealing with her drug problems, throws her stuff out of his apartment and abandons her. In 1997, J. D.'s grandmother, after recovering from her hospitalization, takes him to live with her. J. D. soon starts excelling in school and begins to work towards making something of himself. He grows up, joins the United States Marine Corps, goes home when his grandmother dies to help with her funeral, and uses the G.I. Bill to go to college. In 2011, J. D., having convinced Bev to let him pay for her motel room and some food, drives back to Yale for his interview. As he drives he talks to Usha on his cellphone. He arrives back in time for his interview, surprising Usha. In the last scene we see him going into the interview.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Imagine Entertainment won the rights to the memoir in an April 2017 auction, for Ron Howard to direct.[6] In February 2018, Vanessa Taylor was set to adapt the memoir into a screenplay.[7] In March 2018, Ron Howard was spotted at the Buckingham Coal Mine near Corning, Ohio, scouting possible locations in Perry County.[8] In October 2018 and March 2019, Howard was spotted in Middletown, Ohio, again scouting filming locations.[9][10]

In January 2019, Netflix won the rights to the film after bidding $45 million on the project.[11] Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Gabriel Basso and Haley Bennett joined the cast in April.[12][13][14][15] In June 2019, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins and Owen Asztalos were added.[16]

Principal photography began on June 12, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia,[17] and wrapped on August 8, 2019, in Middletown, Ohio, after a 43-day shooting schedule. Several days of filming took place in the book's setting of Middletown, Ohio,[18] though much of the filming was done in Atlanta, Clayton, and Macon, Georgia, using the production code-name "IVAN."[19][20] Hans Zimmer and David Fleming composed the film's music.[21]

By January 2020, the film was in post-production.[22]

Release[edit]

Hillbilly Elegy began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 11, 2020, then streamed on Netflix starting November 24.[23]

It was the most-watched film on the site in its first day of release, before finishing third in its debut weekend.[24] Over its second weekend the film fell to eighth place.[25]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Critical response to Hillbilly Elegy was "fairly negative", but the performances of its cast received some praise.[5][26] On Rotten Tomatoes, 25% of 251 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "With the form of an awards-season hopeful but the soul of a bland melodrama, Hillbilly Elegy strands some very fine actors in the not-so-deep South."[27] According to Metacritic, which calculated a weighted average score of 38 out of 100 based on 43 critics, the film received "generally unfavorable reviews".[28]

The Independent reported that the film was widely criticized for "perpetuating stereotypes about the poor".[29] Katie Rife of The A.V. Club called it "bootstrapping poverty porn" and said that it "reinforces the stereotypes it's meant to be illuminating."[30]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote "As long as Close is acting up an award-worthy storm (her performance is actually quite meticulous), Hillbilly Elegy is never less than alive. Amy Adams does some showpiece acting of her own, but as skillful as her performance is, she never gets us to look at Bev with pity and terror."[31] For IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a "C–" and wrote "Hillbilly Elegy hinges on Mamaw's hope that she'll leave her family better off than she found them, and it's clear that Vance's story has fulfilled that wish almost as soon as this movie starts. But the process of watching him cut his losses and recommit to his own success is rendered in a way that it isn't just dramatically unsatisfying in the extreme, but also on the verge of sociopathic."[32]

Peter Travers from Good Morning America thought the film was a "missed opportunity" but Close's performance was "sensational". He concluded "With greater emphasis on simplicity instead of Hollywood showboating, Hillbilly Elegy might have been more than a missed opportunity."[33] In her positive review, Sandra Hall from The Sydney Morning Herald praised Howard's "high-end brand of commercial movie-making" and opined that he's "to be applauded just for inviting Close, with her wealth of imagination and technique, to give us everything she has."[34] Richard Roeper from the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect 4 out of 4 star rating, praising Adams' and Close's "exceptional work", describing Adams as a "tour de force" and Close as "masterful, screen-commanding, pitch-perfect."[35]

Accolades[edit]

Glenn Close became the third performer in history to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry Award for the same performance.[36]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
2020
San Francisco International Film Festival[37] Award for Acting Glenn Close Won
2021
AARP Movies for Grownup Awards[38] Best Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Best Intergenerational Film Hillbilly Elegy Nominated
Academy Awards[39] Best Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney and Matthew Mungle Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[40] Best Makeup and Hair Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney and Matthew Mungle Nominated
Casting Society of America[41] Feature Big Budget – Drama Carmen Cuba, Tara Feldstein Bennett, Chase Paris, D. Lynn Meyers and Judith Sunga Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards[42] Best Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Best Hair & Makeup Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney and Matthew Mungle Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards[43] Best Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Gold Derby Awards[44] Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Makeup/Hair Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney and Matthew Mungle Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[45] Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Glenn Close Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards[46][47] Worst Director Ron Howard Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Worst Screenplay Vanessa Taylor; Based on the novel by J.D. Vance Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association Awards[48] Best Supporting Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Best Hair & Makeup Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney and Matthew Mungle Nominated
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards[49] Best Period and/or Character Make-Up in a Feature-Length Motion Picture Eryn Krueger Mekash, Jamie Hess, Devin Morales and Jessica Gambardella Nominated
Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling in a Feature-Length Motion Picture Patricia Dehaney, Tony Ward, Martial Corneville and Stacey Butterworth Nominated
Best Special Make-Up Effects in a Feature-Length Motion Picture Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew Mungle and Jamie Hess Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards[50] Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Amy Adams Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Glenn Close Nominated
Set Decorators Society of America Awards[51] Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Contemporary Feature Film Merissa Lombardo and Molly Hughes Nominated

References[edit]

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External links[edit]