Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Has anyone else watched Hillbilly Elegy (2020) on Netflix streaming? I'm a little confused by it.
Hillbilly Elegy is based on the 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a book I haven't read in which I now feel interested. Glenn Close (Mamaw--Vance's grandmother), Amy Adams (Bev--Vance's mother), Gabriel Basso (adult J.D.), and Owen Asztalos (young J.D.) inhabit their roles––an ability I admire tremendously. Everyone else in the movie is great, too. Ron Howard directs.
Adult J.D. has to leave Yale Law School, where he seeks a summer internship with a prestigious law firm that will pay him enough money to allow him to stay in school, to return to the town where he grew up, because his mother overdosed on heroin. We also see numerous flashbacks to J.D.'s younger years as he struggled to deal with his abusive mother and the addictions that apparently began when she was a nurse in a hospital and stole pain pills.
Young J.D.'s crusty, tough grandmother took him in and scared away his bad friends. She demands he pay attention to his schoolwork:
Mamaw: I don't care you hate me. I ain't in it for popularity. You gotta take care of business, go to school, get good grades to even have a chance.
So, what bothers me about the movie?
Does it magnify stereotypes or reflect real life? Mamaw and Bev deal with abusive men, never have enough money (it bugs me that Mamaw smokes like a chimney yet lacks funds), spout profanity constantly, and are quite nasty themselves. Mamaw gets rid of her cruel, drunk husband, but he lives down the street and they spend some time together. Bev goes from one bad man to another.
Real life: physical and emotional abuse exist and the cycle is hard to break, lots of people remain addicted to smoking no matter the consequences, drug and alcohol abuse are a never-ending problem, many people curse, and plenty of people are nasty. Mamaw and Bev probably would have been Trump supporters.
I hope you can see why I ask for your opinions of the movie. 'Tis a conundrum for this Junebug.
Infinities of love,
: I don't care you hate me. I ain't in it for popularity. You gotta take care of business, go to school, get good grades to even have a chance.
We plan to start watching it once we finish El Chapo. Have kept up on the controversy and have been curious to see for ourselves. Will let you know how we experience it.ReplyDelete
I appreciate that, Mitchell.Delete
I don't plan on watching it. I know people who are self destructive like this. Not a stereotype sadly.ReplyDelete
I love it that you're honest about it and you protect yourself by not watching something that can be painful.Delete
I have a story to tell, a few actually, but I have to wait until I retire to tell them.Delete
Understood. I have a lot of nursing home stories to tell.Delete
I think the fact that it's Vance's lived experience saves it from stereotyping, but I can see how some critics might believe it to be that. I liked the movie, but the book is better and offers more depth. (And indeed when it came out it was marketed as a book that helps explain Trump voters.)ReplyDelete
I found your blog through Mitchell -- my family lives in Jacksonville so thought I should stop by!
Thanks for visiting, Steve. I like your comment, and I want to read the book as soon as I can.Delete
Sorry, haven't seen it or read the book either.ReplyDelete
You might come across it at some point.Delete
I haven't seen it but from your synopsis it sounds like a reflection of life. A life too many live and have lived. I suspect the stereotype label comes from assigning those lives to hill-billies. Sadly it is by no means limited to them.ReplyDelete
I think the title also comes from the family's Appalachian roots.Delete
I watched it. To me it was a picture of real life for people who don't think about life being that way. I was hard to watch but I felt at the end it was worth watching. The acting was excellant.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Barbara. You have me thinking.Delete
Barbara of Branson, if you come back to visit, please let me know how to find your blog.Delete
I read the book first, by chance, and then stumbled on the movie, by chance.ReplyDelete
The book was excellent; it was about the reasons Appalachia is so dangerous and debilitating. It is full of opioids and men and women without employment and under employment. The book spelled out everything in JD's head; the movie put it in front of you, no sugar coating.
I appreciate what you have to say, Joanne. When I can afford it, I want to get the book.Delete
Hi Janie - I haven't known about it ... but as I'm about to get Netflix I may well take a chance, while obviously your notes and commenter's remarks all help. Stay safe and take care - HilaryReplyDelete
I'm being very careful about the virus, Hilary.Delete
Plan to watch it and will let you know. :)ReplyDelete
I see you point, Janie. Don't know the answer, though.ReplyDelete
A Blue Grumpster without an answer? Shocking!Delete
On smoking, apparently Steven King's wife felt the same when they were poor and before he gained fame complained about their money going up in smoke.ReplyDelete
Interesting. I guess they can more than afford to smoke now, if they still choose to do so.Delete
I read the book and remember liking it a lot. I thought it gave an accurate depiction of a poor and desperate part of our country.ReplyDelete
It was not well reviewed, but I was aware of J.D. Vance when his book came out and liked him. So I decided to watch.ReplyDelete
It was not "fun," in that watching wretched drug-addict's behavior (the mother) is painful, but afterwards I was glad I saw it and stayed to the end. The next day I realized I was still thinking about it, something few if any of the new crop of Netflix produced holiday movies ever leave me with. (They are residue-free and sort of content-free :P) Thus, I can say I sort of liked it.
As to stereotypes, J.D.'s life is what it is. His is a story of coming out of one place and joining another while always being cognizant of who you are and who you came from. Many movies are variations on theme. But his, based on his real life, can't be changed to suit some literary hope of avoiding stereotypes.
Great comment, Mirka. My sister said that the book and the movie were critically panned, but it's reality, isn't it? Why pretend it isn't.Delete
I haven't watched it yet. I saved it on Netflix and we'll get to it eventually. Or at least try it.ReplyDelete
I'm not sorry that I watched it, Martha.Delete
I know about the book and movie but it is not for me to watch now if ever. Sorry.ReplyDelete
No need to be sorry. The movie is sad.Delete
I was thinking about checking this one out, but it really doesn't seem to fit my current mode of comedy. Not proud, but it's about all I can take these days ;)ReplyDelete
After watching it, I decided to turn toward comedy, too. I can't deal with a lot of sadness.Delete