Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix Movie) Review: Why it Missed The Mark


Hillbilly Elegy is sure to get nominated for a bunch of awards, but that doesn’t mean it is a good movie. In fact it is a bad one.

hillbilly elegy poster

When I first heard about Hillbilly Elegy I thought it was going to be a hit movie for Netflix. With Ron Howard directing and Glenn Close and Amy Adams starring, what could possibly go wrong? Not to mention that it is based on a best selling book — a memoir by J.D. Vance.

Unfortunately a lot can go wrong. This movie is just under two hours long, but feels like double that. It is lost and jumpy from beginning to end, and there is only one character that is even remotely likeable. The reviews for this one have been mixed, but leaning toward bad, and honestly, I have to agree with that. 

I wanted to at least enjoy Hillbilly Elegy. And I tried, I really did. But this one is a big miss for me. I don’t recommend watching it. 

hillbilly elegy

HILLBILLY ELEGY: (L to R) Haley Bennett (“Lindsay”), Gabriel Basso (J.D. Vance), Amy Adams (“Bev”). Photo Cr. Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX © 2020

Unlikable Characters

There is not one character in this movie that I connected with or cared about. J.D. came off as a “holier than thou” kid who grew up to be embarrassed of his family (although I can’t blame him there). He was a smart ass kid that honestly, was a brat. Yes, he had a hard life, but he was more annoying than anything else. 

Bev, his mom, played by Amy Adams, was always flying off the handle. It seems like all she did was yell or cry and that she had no real depth to her. J.D.’s sister, Lindsay, was never really around in the past scenes, and in the present, she was just kind of — there. A very forgettable character at the least. As for J.D.’s girlfriend, I liked her more than anyone else in the movie even though we really don’t see much of her at all. 

The only character I enjoyed seeing on screen is Mawmaw, played by Glenn Close, and that is mostly because of her potty mouth. She is unafraid to tell it like it is, and let’s be honest, seeing an old lady cuss out kids is funny. 

hillbilly elegy

HILLBILLY ELEGY: (L to R) Haley Bennett (“Lindsay”), Glenn Close (“Mamaw”),Owen Asztalos (“Young J.D. Vance”). Photo Cr. Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX © 2020

Jumping Through Time

My main issue with this movie was the jumping back and forth through time. We would be in the present and all of a sudden we are back in the past. I understand that the point of this was to get a glimpse at what J.D. went through growing up, but it was to all over the place. 

I don’t want to say it was hard to follow along, but it was just not done right. It would have been best to start off with the present, jump to the past, then end in the present, rather than all the back and forth. It took away from the story too much. 

hillbilly elegy

HILLBILLY ELEGY: (L to R) Glenn Close (“Mamaw”), Amy Adams (“Bev”). Photo Cr. Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX © 2020

Overall Thoughts

Hillbilly Elegy is one of those movies that looks really great on paper, but falls flat in actuality. Ron Howard directing, Amy Adams and Glenn Close starring, and it based off a best selling book. But it jumps around through time too much and it is really hard to connect to any of the characters.

This movie had a lot of potential but unfortunately it is a big miss in my book. Early reviews seem to be hit or miss with this, with most being negative. However, I could see this becoming a cult classic movie. I guess time will tell. 

Be sure to check out the best Hillbilly Elegy quotes.

About Hillbilly Elegy

J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey.

Based on J.D. Vance’s #1 New York Times Bestseller, directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard and produced by Academy Award winner Brian Grazer, HILLBILLY ELEGY is a powerful personal memoir that offers a window into one family’s personal journey of survival and triumph. By following three colorful generations through their unique struggles, J.D.’s family story explores the highs and lows that define his family’s experience.

Watch Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix now!

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