Other reviews haven't been too kind to Ron Howard's deep dive into the generational story of a family of hillbillies, aptly titled Hillbilly Elegy, but when I saw the promotional images of Glenn Close and Amy Adams in character I knew I had to check this one out either way. Close and Adams are two of the most talented actresses on the planet, so I was very intrigued to see their portrayals of characters who in reality couldn't be more different than either of them. As expected the two completely blew me away with their performances as they disappeared in these roles, trying to humanize some really terrible people. Maybe it was the low expectations, or maybe it was just me loving the performances, but I actually really enjoyed the film. Maybe enjoyed is the wrong word, but it was like watching a really entertaining disaster, and in times like these, watching someone else's problems was most welcome.
The film follows JD (Gabriel Basso,) a bright young Yale student who comes from very humble beginnings. His mother Bev (Amy Adams) had him and his sister as a teenager and never was really able to get her life together ever since. Always jumping from man to man, never able to hold a steady job, and succumbing to drug addiction, Bev brings down anyone in her path. JD reflects on his past and his upbringing while participating in interviews for school that will shape his entire future. He's forced to confront his demons and unpack the baggage he's hiding away when his sister begs him to come back home and help their mother once again.
Again, as I've already mentioned, the performances by Adams and Glenn Close who plays Bev's mother and JD's grandmother, "Mamaw," are absolutely incredible. The story is a simple one and while perhaps predictable, the issues and the scars feel real... which makes sense since it's based on somebody's real life. I'm personally not really sure where all the hate stems from on this one, because I don't feel like the movie made these people particularly likable; no one is calling them heroes. These are definitely people who inflicted trauma on each subsequent generation, and the feelings aren't overly sentimental...they're complicated.