Hillbilly Elegy Review

November 18, 2020 at 8:59am
By Jason Stettner

Hillbilly Elegy is a Netflix Original film that follows a family struggling with generations of issues. It’s an extremely slow burn, with a few stand out moments trickled within it. It felt very light in terms of actual events, and the pacing was not great. This largely follows J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) as he deals with trying to make it in a professional setting as a student around Yale law and problems with his family back home.

It dives into the idea of the American dream to a minor degree, and goes from there. I had a very different idea of what this would be like, and it was just very slow. It had some heavier emotional points, with the true stand out here being Mamaw (Glenn Close). She was great here, and miles beyond everyone else.

The grandmother that doesn’t care about what people think, and just gets straight to business. Anyways, it’s mostly a heavy drama with feel good moments thrown in. It’s a guy that’s trying to make it while also dealing with his family’s many issues. It digs into their legacy, and also the present. There’s not much of an urgency at any point really, and they could have played with the tension of going against a clock a bit more than they did.
Hillbilly Elegy Wallpaper
I wasn’t too blown away by the presentation of this. I would have liked a better focus on presenting the passing of time, with the slow break down of the family as they aged. You did see each of the key moments, but those were spread over such a long time. Again, going back to that pacing it just takes forever to get to its point.

It’s not like what was being shown was gripping or anything, actually coming across as rather boring to watch at points. I think if this were tighter, the story would have had a deeper impact in those stronger moments. It was also incredibly predictable while watching. I knew the ending prior to even having watched more than ten minutes or so of it.

It doesn’t do anything new, and I’m also not sure that it paints the perfect picture of the problems associated with addiction. It lightly hits them, and even at times shies away. I would have liked to see more of the struggle, or even a different perspective. It seems like everyone is just surrounding this “survivor” as to say as he goes out to accomplish what his family couldn’t. It’s a story I’ve seen told many times, and I wasn’t impressed by this effort.

The Conclusion

Hillbilly Elegy presents an interesting concept for a film, but shows something we’ve seen many times prior while also being aggressively slow in that presentation. I found Glenn Close’s Mamaw to be the real stand out here which was surprising considering the talent around her, such as with Amy Adams’ Bev.

Still, a definite strong point for the direction of the plot and not messing around with how the family has been run. I suppose it might hit home from the perspective of someone living in the United States when it comes to that American dream element, but I didn’t really feel much of that outside of the concept of knowing exactly where things were headed from the get go.

There’s nothing really surprising, and it’s an absolute slog to get through. I wasn’t too thrilled by this one, and the direction they took with it. Neat story I suppose, but it’s nothing that others haven’t faced or even presented in a theatrical fashion in the past.

Hillbilly Elegy Review at Home with Streamed Viewing
Screening was Provided by Netflix

Rating Overall: 4.7

Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner