Tuesday 24 November 2020

Hillbilly Elegy (Movie Review)

The Oscars might still be some ways out from today, but the competition continues heating up as more and more contenders start showing up for the big fight. And the latest movie that will be duking it out with the rest is the drama, Hillbilly Elegy, which released earlier today on Netflix, following a limited theatrical release earlier this month. The film is directed by Ron Howard, who is himself no stranger to the Oscars, but it is perhaps its two leading stars who will be generating the most Oscar buzz. 

Based on the 2016 bestselling book of the same name, Hillbilly Elegy explores the experiences of a young man named J.D (Gabriel Basso), a struggling Yale student on the verge of a much-needed career and financial breakthrough. But after he gets a disturbing phone call from his older sister back home, he is forced to make an impromptu trip to the backwater town where he'd been raised. And there he will be reminded of the life he had tried so hard to get away from, as he reflects on the three generations of family members that helped shape his upbringing.

Hillbilly Elegy was one of the dramatic movies I was most looking forward to this awards season. This was based solely off the strength of its marketing, and the talent involved in the movie, with both Amy Adams and Glenn Close being past Academy Awards nominees themselves. And I'm glad to report that the film didn't disappoint, at least in the acting department. Both actresses gave a pair of truly stellar performances, which helped bring their characters to life, so I'm indeed curious to see if they'll be able to make the cut at next year's Oscars.

There was also something about the movie itself that seemed to hit me on a deeply emotional level. I know that all art is subjective, and sometimes your experiences with a particular movie hinges on how relatable you find its story or characters. But something about this particular one just worked. Maybe it was its heartfelt take on family, or the way it depicted its story without the whole thing becoming too sentimental or manipulative, even though it touches upon some sensitive subject matter.

The film isn't without problems of course, and the biggest one I had was with its narrative structure. The film relied too heavily on flashbacks in my opinion, but I'm guessing this was being carried over from its source material, where such a structure would no doubt work better. But at least it was never hard to place what time any particular scene was taking place in, so there's that. It is worth noting as well that I haven't read the book the movie is based upon, so I can't speak to how well it has been adapted, or what details might have been glossed over.

Your enjoyment of Hillbilly Elegy rests upon how much you enjoy family dramas with a deep emotional core. The film is elevated by solid performances, but its execution might also be a little too muddled for most. And while you might not relate with it on the same level I did, I still think it is worthy of a watch.

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