Hillbilly Elegy

My wife and I watched Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix. I had read the book, and enjoyed it. My expectations for the movie, however, were quite modest.

Hillbilly Elegy communicates precious little about the culture it depicts – and exploits – with Oscar-baiting aspirations.

Adam Nayman, the ringer

We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it immensely, each of us ranking it among the best film experiences of recent years.

Hillbilly Elegy is an Oscar-friendly narrative of personal triumph in the face of great hardship, a movie designed to end with an uplifting epigraph; it is also one of the worst movies of the year.

David simms, the atlantic

When I looked into it a little farther, I was shocked to learn that while many viewers agreed with me, critics were overwhelmingly negative about. 85% of viewers like the film, but only 16% of the top critics. I’ve never seen a film ranked this poorly on Rotten Tomatoes.

For all the overbearing sound and fury of the two lead performances, for all the purported gravitas, in the end it just feels pointless, a poverty porn portrayal of the lives it intends to honor.

Esther zuckerman, thrillist

I also found its portrayal of my alma mater, Yale, while far from flattering, offered a fresh perspective. From my personal experience attending an elite educational institution can be a very different experience from one individual to the next.

The enormously discrepancy between critic and viewer reaction says something more broadly about our contemporary culture. Viewers are judging the film for its entertainment value, while critics are assessing the story’s politics. But who cares what I think? What are your thoughts?

One thought on “Hillbilly Elegy

  1. At your recommendation we watched last eve and were very moved – and that for us is the reward of the best in cinema. Ron Howard consistently does this with his films. We have not read the book yet ,but note that the full title = “Hillbilly Elegy – A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” The film certainly and graphically portrays JD’s family crisis for 3 generations, caught in cycles of addiction, anger, enabling- seemingly surrounded by folks likewise trapped. At the core is the family with all its faults and somewhat the “tribe”. The world of “Yale/ educational privilege and opportunity is a world apart. – The America of “Haves” and “Have -nots” which faces us today. Perhaps the book is more pointedly political; we may investigate. Some referred to it (ironically) as the explanation for the rise of Trump support, and others the lesser quality of a “Lifetime Network Special. We found it ultimately and in the epilogue to be a powerfully real story of struggle and survival.

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