Judging by the trailer, the new Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy has “Academy Award-winning performances” stamped all over it. An almost unrecognisable Glenn Close and Amy Adams with an extremely unflattering look are at the centre of what looks like a gut-wrenching insight into a dysfunctional Appalachian family.
Hillbilly Elegy is based on the bestselling memoir of the same name by JD Vance, a law student at the prestigious Yale University who has to return home to his working-class family in the Appalachian mountains, AKA “hillbilly country”, and is drawn back into the traumatic circumstances he has been trying to remove himself from.
Former Marine JD (Gabriel Basso) has to deal with the family crisis just as he is offered his dream job.
Glenn Close plays his beloved “Mamaw”, the woman who brought him up while his mother, Bev (Amy Adams), was suffering from drug addiction and in no fit state to raise a family. Will it be the film that finally earns Close the Oscar that she has been nominated seven times for previously, including four Best Actress nominations? The early preview buzz has already started.
When is the Hillbilly Elegy release date?
Netflix says Hillbilly Elegy will be released on Tuesday 24th November at 8.00am. It will also have a limited release in cinemas.
Where was Hillbilly Elegy filmed?
Hillbilly Elegy was partially filmed in Middletown, Ohio, which is the Appalachian town in which Vance’s memoir is set. The area is also part of the “Rust Belt” because the immense steel industry that thrived in the region up until the 1980s has long gone.
The Appalachian Mountain communities are perceived to be “Trump country” and are among the most deprived areas of the US.
The film was also shot in Macon, Georgia, also in the Applachians, as well as Clayton and Atlanta, Georgia.
Hillbilly Elegy trailer
What book is Hillbilly Elegy based on?
The film is based on the New York Times best-selling memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, written by JD Vance in 2016.
Vance wrote about the Appalachian values of his struggling family and the experience of growing up in Middletown.
The Guardian said Hillbilly Elegy “follows the broad arc of the survivor story, a genre that has a special place in the US’s conversation with itself. Class mobility in America is stagnant and Vance is a statistical outlier. He should not have made it out of Middletown, Ohio. That he did, he ascribes to luck, character and the relative stability provided by his grandmother, known as Mamaw.”
Vance managed to escape his impoverished, dead-end background by joining the Marines and going to serve in Iraq. When he demobbed he went to Ohio State University, then Yale Law School and began his ascent. He is now an international fund manager living in San Francisco.
Much of the book focuses on his slow and painful exit from hillbilly culture and its own particular morality, its patriotism, the tight-knit families and, according to the New Yorker, the “decisiveness with which they administer hillbilly justice”.
Who is in the Hillbilly Elegy cast?
The author, Vance, is played by two actors. The teenage JD is played by Owen Asztalos, while the college graduate leading role is played by Gabriel Basso, in his first film job in four years.
Hollywood icon Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, The Wife) plays his grandmother, while Amy Adams plays his heroin-addicted mother, whose chaotic life creates so much of the drama in the film.
Other key cast include Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto as Usha, JD’s college girlfriend, and Haley Bennett, who plays his half-sister, Lindsay, the girl who shouldered so much of the family responsibilities when JD left.
Director Ron Howard is the Oscar-winning force behind classic movies such as A Beautiful Mind (2001), Apollo 13 (1995) and Frost/Nixon (2008).
Will the Hillbilly Elegy stars win Oscars?
Adams has been nominated SIX times for acting awards at the Oscars: five times as Best Supporting Actress and once for Best Actress, 2014’s American Hustle. Close has been nominated SEVEN times for acting Oscars: four times as Best Actress in a Leading Role, including in 2019 for The Wife.
The buzz has already begun about their performances in Hillbilly Elegy and the trailer shows both women in ferocious form, with Close in particular almost unrecognisable but totally compelling as Mamaw.
Will one of the stars finally land the most-prized award in entertainment? In fact, could both of them win for their performances? In a year where many of the blockbusters have been held back, Hillbilly Elegy could be the low-budget surprise that takes the Oscars by storm in February.