Remember the halcyon days of 2016, when middle-to-upper class liberals, desperate to understand the election of Donald Trump, turned to any source that attempted to pry open the minds of the rural folks who turned out in droves to send him to the White House? That curiosity, sort of an empathetic take on Sun Tzu’s “Know one’s enemy” quote, has slowly curdled into mockery, especially among journalists who now regularly decry whenever the New York Times sends out a reporter to a small-town diner to prod and poke at the inhabitants of whatever small town they inhabit. But other mediums weren’t immune to it at the time, including the publishing world, which rallied around venture capitalist J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir about Vance’s family and their struggles with poverty and addiction over the years. Othershave pokedgreater holes in that book than we can, but of course, that wouldn’t be enough to ensure that someone wouldn’t give this book a prestige film adaptation.
That would be Netflix, who hired Ron Howard to direct a feature adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy a few years back, and who cast Amy Adams, Glenn Close, and a bunch of other stars to be in it. The first trailer for the film arrived earlier on Wednesday and boy, it looks like some premium-grade Oscar bait.
Here’s a synopsis:
“J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey.
Based on J.D. Vance’s #1 New York Times Bestseller, directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard and produced by Academy Award winner Brian Grazer, ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a powerful personal memoir that offers a window into one family’s personal journey of survival and triumph. By following three colorful generations through their unique struggles, J.D.’s family story explores the highs and lows that define his family’s experience.”
Hillbilly Elegy arrives on Netflix and in select theaters on November 24. If you’d like to watch some real hillbilly elegies, we highly recommend visiting Mark Laita’s Soft White Underbelly YouTube channel, which organically possesses truth and authenticity given that it’s a collection of interviews with “forgotten” men and women. It may be the literal antithesis of this film, too.