Netflix does an amazing job of tricking you into watching their mediocre content and Hillbilly Elegy did it again. There’s a movie poster of Amy Adams and Glenn Close standing together. The trailer is clips of these two talented actresses in scenes alone together.
And then you hit play and realize it’s a movie JD Vance’s incredibly boring nothing low stakes life where he goes to Yale and tries to get an internship at some firm or whatever.
Amy Adams plays Bev Vance, a single mother who we eventually learn develops an opioid addiction that costs her all of her happiness and instead of director, Ron Howard, focusing on this woman’s struggle, we see the story being told from her crybaby chubby son’s perspective where they are unable to hide his overwhelming contempt for his mentally sick mother because she was like, mean to him when he was younger or chubbier.
For a movie that so clearly exists exclusively to steal Acadamy Awards, there is not one scene that provides any real emotion.
There is a moment at the end Hillbilly Elegy where JD returns to his Appalachian hometown because his mom ODs and needs a place to stay for the night. He gets her a motel room and witnesses her attempt to do heroin. A scene that should’ve had emotional catharsis ended with JD looking his mom in the eyes and saying “I didn’t come back to save anyone” before he drives off to an interview and leaves his decaying mother to sit in that filthy motel and quickly get more heroin.
JD Vance might be one of the worst protagonists in movie history and derails the entire motion picture.
There’s a flashback scene—there’s so many fucking flashback scenes—where Meemaw explains to JD that there are good Terminators and bad Terminators. When asked about her husband, she further explains that he can be a bad Terminator when he feels small and belittled and that his mother Bev is the same way.
Fast forward and adult JD comes chest out swiping cards and rubbing it in his mom’s face that he’s spending all this time and energy getting her a bed in a rehab that, by the way, she never once mentions she’s ready to do, and JD is SHOCKED when his mom freaks out and bails after feeling belittled by her son.
This dull asshole has absolutely zero desire to understand his mother’s pain. He is told directly why his mother’s moods flip so quickly. He is fully aware of her unhappy life and even still he refuses to wrap his mind around the fact that she can’t pull herself up by her own bootstraps as if she’s not dreaming about getting high 24/7 and has completely lost control of her behavior.
And it happens twice. I’m getting pissed. It literally happens twice.
After Bev runs out of the rehab, JD’s sister, Lindsay, explaining to this adult rotund boy that his mother didn’t just wake up a fuck up one morning but her trauma began in her childhood when she saw young Glenn Close lighting her dad ON FIRE after he beats the shit out of her.
At this point, he’s no younger than 22-years old and just for the first time attempted to fathom the idea that perhaps his mother had a life before he slipped out of her. He hears about his mother’s horrific childhood and maybe like, 3 hours go by before he’s screaming at her about doing heroin as if he didn’t just pick her up from ODING ON HEROIN.
This would’ve been an astronomically better movie if JD Vance didn’t appear in it all and it was just Glenn Close and Amy Adams acting their asses off. If you wanted to tell a story among 3 generations then I honestly would’ve loved to see Lindsay Vance be the star and see her perspective growing up with these two women.
Clearly, Lindsay is the child who actually cared to understand her mother’s struggles more. She stayed in town and watched her slowly become an addict. That’s where the emotional storyline is. Who gives any shits about JD Vance missing an interview at a law firm. That sociopath could’ve gotten another interview somewhere else a week later. None of his story mattered.
You can’t separate this movie from the politics of its dumb author. JD Vance is a proud Republican who watched his Meemaw struggle to feed the two of them with the very limited Meals on Wheels public service and instead of discovering that perhaps people in lower economic situations need more help, he felt embarrassed and that’s the catalyst in the movie that makes him want to pass Algebra or whatever the fuck.
The right wants to shame those who are born into hell. You want money? Graduate from Yale Law School and leave your mother to die in a dirty motel so you can get an interview. That’s how you survive in this country. If I did, anyone can do it.
Vance’s mother was a drug addict who didn’t have the medical insurance to get the rehabilitation she needed and JD grows up to be a Republican that fights against Medicare For All. He doesn’t blame the systems that operate best when people in poverty remain that way. Nope. It’s all about sitting up straight in your chair and keeping your chin up or some shit.
Hillbilly Elegy sucks.