Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy ★★★½

Opie's return to Mayberry wasn't quite what I was expecting. This is a decent autobiographical adaptation from a director that's never been a particular favorite of mine. And yet I recognize that Ron Hoard's overall body of work isn't easily dismissed. I think Cocoon and Parenthood are probably worthy of returning to sometime as well. Hell, since Willow is getting a series soon, maybe I owe Howard's filmography a second look. I never did check out Cinderella Man.

With Hillbilly Elegy I was worried that we'd end up with caricatures based on the overblown and tacky trailer. However, I think the casting ended up just fine, with everyone delivering when it counted. While it's doubtful this will be the awards contender that Netflix was likely positioning it to be, don't be surprised if Glenn Close manages to pull a nomination. If Kathy Bates deserved one for Richard Jewell, I see no reason to deny Close this one. Amy Adams might have a bit too much scenery to chew at times, and I found myself more impressed by the subtler work of rising star Haley Bennett. Although, I think the character Adams plays is so desperately dependent on her family that she would go to extremes to retain their attention.

There was something earnest, refreshing and almost elegiac about this family melodrama. There's nothing particularly fresh or inspired about it, and that's the big problem I think most folks will have. I cherished the simple pleasures, like the small town Kentucky locations and a lead character determined to overcome the odds are appealing in such a cynical time. Happy also to hear that this had a minor theatrical release in advance of its streaming premiere. Would have been a perfect family outing for Thanksgiving weekend. Not sure about the future for this kind of drama on the big screen, but I'm hopeful there will be room at the table, even for flicks that feel like leftovers. 7.4/10

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