Hillbilly Elegy review round-up: Amy Adams, Glenn Close's film is an 'extended Oscar-clip montage' with no purpose

Hillbilly Elegy, which debuts on Netflix on 24 November, has been panned by critics as 'exploitative and crass' and 'a rich person’s idea of what it is like to be a poor person.'

FP Staff November 11, 2020 14:15:28 IST
Hillbilly Elegy review round-up: Amy Adams, Glenn Close's film is an 'extended Oscar-clip montage' with no purpose

Amy Adams in a still from Hillbilly Elegy trailer | Twitter

Ahead of its Netflix debut on 24 November, Glenn Close and Amy Adams' highly anticipated social drama Hillbilly Elegy opened in select theatres in the US and UK.

Based on a memoir venture capitalist JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy has been adapted to screen by Ron Howard, best known for his films A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code and Rush. 

Vance's memoir detailed the struggles of the working-class whites and how one poor Ohio kid with Appalachian values fulfilled the American Dream of going to Yale Law School. While the memoir was hailed by American Conservatives when it was published in 2016, the same year Donald Trump was elected as the US president, recent critics have dismissed Vance as "the false prophet of Blue America," calling the book "primarily a work of self-congratulation."

Ron Howard's film, on the other hand, has been panned across the board for the superficial, soap-operatic dramatisation of its source material, notwithstanding the values it espouses.

Check out some of the first reviews here

The Guardian: "Hillbilly Elegy is a solemn true story of self-betterment from tough beginnings, weirdly like the “personal statement” that an American teenager would put on an application to an Ivy League college."

The Wrap: “It isn’t interested in the systems that create poverty and addiction and ignorance; it just wants to pretend that one straight white guy’s ability to rise above his surroundings means that there’s no excuse for everyone else not to have done so as well."

New York Post: "...Recent movies that have probed the lives of poor and working-class Americans — The Florida Project, Moonlight, Lady Bird — have chosen respectful subtlety and have exposed the unsung beauty of pockets of America. Hillbilly Elegy, on the other hand, practically underscores its turning points with a gong."

LA Times: “Hillbilly Elegy is an extended Oscar-clip montage in search of a larger purpose, an unwieldy slop bucket of door-smashing, child-slapping, husband-immolating histrionics.”

Collider: "[The] lack of levels and nuance makes Hillbilly Elegy frequently feel exploitative and crass. When you don’t dig down into anything beyond the superficial and big emotional moments, your film plays as unintentionally comic because there’s no empathy for what’s happening. It’s a shortcut to emotion, and that cheap trick frequently renders the film aggressively terrible and laughably bad..."

Den of Geek: "We never really get a clear picture of just why drug use and poverty are so rampant in the lives of Vance, his family and their community–part of which is the peculiar socioeconomics of the region that the film has chosen to ignore."

Vox: "...It is distractingly Hollywoodified, a rich person’s idea of what it is like to be a poor person, a tone-deaf attempt to assuage a very particular kind of liberal guilt by reifying the very thing that caused the guilt in the first place. And, perhaps worst of all, it’s a very dull movie."

Vanity Fair: "This is prestige bait that uses an awfully rusty lure, tossed with careless pride from its ship of Hollywood fools."

 

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