Hillbilly Elegy: Netflix Film Review

Hillbilly Elegy

I love Glenn Close and Amy Adams as individuals so I was excited to see them sharing the screen together in Ron Howard‘s domestic drama Hillbilly Elegy but damn, this film is a tough watch.

In this film adaptation of J.D. Vance‘s bestselling memoir of the same name, adult J.D. (Gabriel Basso), a Yale Law student, is on the brink of a promising summer associate job in 2011 when he receives a call from his sister Lindsay (Haley Bennett) who informs him that their mum Bev (Adams) is in hospital following a heroin overdose. As he heads home to deal with the latest family dilemma, the film flashes back to 1997, when a young and pudgy J.D. (Owen Asztalos) lives at home in Middletown, Ohio, with Bev, a former nurse and drug addict who has uncontrollable mood swings, can act violently, and can barely look after herself, let alone her children. It tells the story of how he managed to turn his life around with the help of his grandmother Mamaw (Close).

I have quite a few issues with the movie – and not just its awful title. It is just so stressful to watch these characters, particularly in the flashbacks. They are repetitive as they serve to illustrate the same point – how difficult Bev was to have as a mother – and sure, they are illuminating in a sense, but there are so many and they basically consist of constant yelling. I just wanted to tell them to shut the hell up. It was unpleasant and tiresome and a lot to sit through.

All I felt for Bev was hatred and that’s the screenplay’s fault. She is written in a stereotypical, one-dimensional way so we never get to know her fully or understand why she is the way she is. Sure, this is J.D.’s story and not his mother’s and there are some flashbacks to her childhood that shed some light on her behaviour, but it’s not enough. I wanted more substance and depth – to get under her skin – when we just get this monster. I wish there had been a couple more scenes of her in better times to give us a greater sense of who she once was and to balance out all the drama and screaming. Mamaw gets a slightly better deal as she has compassion for her grandchildren and wants to help, but she is no angel – she is mean, wicked, and has a history of domestic violence too.

When the trailer first came out for this, people joked that it was obvious Oscar bait and I thought that was a pretty cynical view, but now I have seen it, I can confirm this is quite accurate. These actresses, who have both been nominated for Oscars many times and never won, are doing the most to get another run at the gold with their performances here and I would even say they’re trying too hard. They both go for it and throw themselves into their characters, who are so showy and melodramatic that their performances come across as OTT. Their big acting will definitely get them noticed by the Academy but I reckon Close, covered in all those prosthetics, has more of an edge as Mamaw has more dimension, some great facial expressions (she’d cut you down with a stare!) and presented more of a physical challenge. It’s mind-boggling seeing Close go from The Wife to Hillbilly Elegy, but she just about convinces. I wasn’t fully sold on Adams as Bev though.

A story which depicts a personal triumph against the odds or in the face of adversity normally usually makes me emotional and leaves me feeling inspired but the only thing I felt with this film was pity for J.D. and Lindsay. I think that’s because there’s not enough meat on its bones, it isn’t grounded in much political or socio-economic context, and implies that if you simply apply yourself at school, you will rise up out of poverty, get into a university and then an Ivy League law school and that’s hardly ever the case. Very disappointing.

Streaming on Netflix from Tuesday 24th November

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Devil All the Time: Netflix Film Review

The Devil All the Time

With an incredible A-list line-up including Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, and Sebastian Stan, I couldn’t resist checking out Antonio Campos‘ The Devil All the Time. I had seen a lot of mixed reviews online but I really liked it.

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Oscars 2018: Best & Worst Dressed

This awards season, I have been doing the red carpet analysis for all the major awards shows and we’re now at the climax – the Oscars!

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BAFTAs 2018: Best & Worst Dressed

Much like the Golden Globes, the stars took to the BAFTAs red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall in black to support the Time’s Up movement – and here are my favourite looks.

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Critics’ Choice Awards 2018: Best & Worst Dressed

On Thursday night, it was another red carpet – the Critics’ Choice Awards – which means more fashion for us to check out!

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Top Films for October

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It’s that time of the month – movie preview time! This October isn’t a massive month for releases to be honest, but that certainly makes my job of picking my recommendations much easier. Here we go:

American Honey

This is just a wonderful character study starring newcomer Sasha Lane, who is definitely one to watch. We follow her as she joins a ‘mag crew’ who travel the country selling magazines, she gets involved in their heavy drugs and drink lifestyle and has a sort-of relationship with Shia LaBeouf, who gives his strongest performance in years. It’s a tad too long but seriously life-affirming. Review on its way. Released: 14th October

War on Everyone 

Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard star in this brilliantly un-PC comedy about two crooked cops, who basically use their badges to steal drugs, money, etc and get away with it. The dialogue is hilarious; it is sharp, witty, and so, so wrong. Theo James also stars as their main villain. Released: Friday 7th October

 

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The Girl on the Train 

Okay, so this hasn’t received the stellar reviews we had all been expecting but I would still recommend you check it out. It is still good (just not amazing) – it is gripping, shocking and features an impressive performance from Emily Blunt, who plays an alcoholic who becomes involved in a missing person’s investigation. It also stars Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, with brilliant small appearances from Laura Prepon and Lisa Kudrow. Released today – you can read my review here.

Trolls

I do love a good children’s animation and I’m hoping this new musical featuring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick is just the ticket. They play Branch and Poppy, who go on an adventure to save their town from the troll-eating bergens. I want this to be so much fun. Released: 21st October

 

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Doctor Strange 

Marvel is back WOOHOO! This time we are meeting Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a top surgeon who is put out of a job following a car accident. He encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who become his mentor in the mystic arts. It looks like an Inception-style superhero movie from the trailer and I’m very intrigued, though definitely not as excited as other MCU offerings. Released: 28th October

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The trailer for this action comedy really made me laugh so I’m hoping the rest of the movie will do the same. Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis star as the Gaffneys, a regular married couple, who end up involved in an espionage mission after discovering their neighbours The Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) are secret agents. This better be hilarious! Released: 28th October

The Girl on the Train: Film Review

girl

Since the film adaptation of the bestselling murder mystery Gone Girl was such a big hit, it was hardly a surprise when the film rights were snapped up for a similar success story – Paula Hawkins‘ The Girl on a Train. The book was exciting and intense and I read it quicker than usual but it was certainly no Gone Girl. The same can be said for the movie adaptation; it tries to be Gone Girl but it’s not and it’s definitely not as strong as the book.

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