Netflix’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Is The Controversial Film About The Harsh Realities Of The American Dream

But many are far from happy with the film

As we slowly sail into the new year, there’s one thing sure to arrive at our doorstep sooner than we thought—Award season.

Given the fact that 2020 has left many film sets at a stand still, when a rumoured contender for the top prize is released, it’s a rite of passage that one must drop everything and watch.

And next on the list is Netflix‘s Hillbilly Elegy

Adapted from the 2016 memoir by JD (James David) Vance, an American author and venture capitalist, the film follows the struggles that he and his family handled in the face of addiction, poverty and abuse.

However, the film has become the centre point of ridicule and controversy. Directed by Ron Howard, the memoir’s release date during the 2016 Presidential election has left many viewers curious as to how the film really benefits the right people.

Fascinated? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the film—from the plot and cast members to where you can stream it in Australia.

What Is The Plot Of Hillbilly Elegy?

Based on the life of American author JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy follows his life in the rural Appalachia region—where the film is set.

The film showcases Vance’s controversial upbringing and, according to the books’ excerpt, is a “powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.”

Vance’s mother, Bev, struggles with addiction and the role of caretaker falls to his grandmother, Mamaw, who’s tough love pushes Vance to create a brighter future for himself. It covers topics like alcoholism, abuse, trauma, and poverty, as a young Vance goes on to become a promising Yale law student.

But don’t take our word for it, check out the trailer below to see for yourself.

WATCH BELOW: Hillbilly Elegy Trailer

What Is The Controversy Surrounding Hillbilly Elegy?

While Hillbilly Elegy was initially billed to be an Acamedy-Award winning production, the film has received multiple controversial reviews thus far.

Some critics have put the film’s disappointing response down to awards season, saying that the film hyped up the drama to get consideration for the upcoming Oscars. However, more importantly, viewers’ main gripe has been that the drama takes away from any real, core message in the film.

From Rolling Stone claiming that JD Vance’s story of growing up in poverty “ends up as a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing” to NBC calling the film “two hours of poverty porn”, it’s safe to say that the film may have missed the mark.

“Following Vance’s lead, Howard has turned a community’s moral failings and human anguish into Oscar bait for those looking to find yet another reason to scoff at the working class,” NBC‘s opinion piece stated.

One review from NME stated that the movie “betrays the very people it’s trying to celebrate” by “failing to acknowledge the legitimate problems they face.”

Hillbilly Elegy

When asking stars of the film, Amy Adams and Glenn Close, about the movie’s reviews, Adams responded with, “I think the themes of this movie are very universal,” she told NME.

“Whether it be generational trauma, whether it be just examining where we come from to understand where we’re going and who we are. I think the universality of the themes of the movie far transcend politics.”

Close then added that the movie “wasn’t made with politics in mind, it was made with Ron’s intent. I think he succeeded magnificently to tell the story of a very specific family.”

Another issue that viewers found with the story was how the novel was released during Donald Trump’s Presidential win in 2016. 

In a post by Washington Postthe best-selling memoir by Vance was said to be “embraced as a crucial guide for understanding the rise of President Trump.”

“However unintentionally, ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ was—and is—an argument that there is a limit to which politics can explain personal trauma, not proof that a single story can diagnose a nation.”

And as The Hollywood Reporter explains, during the week of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, his memoir “was number one on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, propelled there in part because Vance was in the media helping to explain Trump’s popularity among poor white voters to the rest of the electorate.”

Hillbilly Elegy

Who Is Cast In Hillbilly Elegy?

Aside from the film’s controversial storyline, as per every Netflix-supported film, the cast list features a stellar line up of famous faces. Leading the cast is Amy Adams (Arrival, American Hustle) as Bev and Glenn Close (The Wife, Crooked House) as Mamaw.

Joining the two is Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Kings of Summer) as the grown-up JD Vance, Owen Asztalos (Paterson, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul) as the young JD Vance, Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Girl on the Train) as Vance’s sister Lindsay, Freida Selena (Slumdog Millionaire, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) as Usha and Bo Hopkins (American Graffiti, Midnight Express) as Papaw.

Hillbilly Elegy

When Can We Watch Hillbilly Elegy In Australia?

Keen to give it a shot? You can catch Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix in Australia now.

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