Review: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ asks the wrong questions

 ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a drama film directed by Ron Howard. Supplied
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Updated 04 December 2020

Review: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ asks the wrong questions

Review: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ asks the wrong questions

LONDON: With a cast that boasts Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Gabriel Basso and Freida Pinto, and with Academy Award-winner Ron Howard in the director’s chair, “Hillbilly Elegy” had an air of Oscar contender about it before the first trailer had even dropped. And with a Netflix distribution deal set to bring it a COVID-19-primed home audience, all the movie really had to do to realize a lot of that Oscar hype was just be, you know, close to watchable. Sadly, this star-spangled adaptation of J. D. Vance’s 2016 memoir manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The night before Vance’s crucial interview at Yale Law School, he gets a call from home. His mother, Bev (Adams), is in the hospital thanks to her ongoing battle with heroin addiction, so J. D. (Basso) rushes back to Ohio, leaving his supportive girlfriend Usha (Pinto) wondering what could make him risk his big Yale shot for a cross-country drive to the Appalachian part of Kentucky and the family he’s been so desperate to leave behind. 

The film stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Supplied

The movie zips between time periods, showing the family’s impoverished history, Bev’s blossoming problems with addiction, and J.D.’s increasing reliance on his grandmother, played with absolute relish by Glenn Close. 

There’s supposed to be an element of social commentary here, presumably, but Howard leans too heavily on ‘yokel’ stereotypes and shortcut tropes, and while Close has plenty to do — she plays Mamaw with equal parts staggering maternal ferocity and anger at her own economic shortcomings — her character is only in the movie so much.

The film is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied

The gifted Adams is woefully underserved, and while Basso and Pinto make a likable couple to root for, theirs is not the relationship we want to know more about. The root of the cycle of poverty, abuse, crime and societal restriction is where the intrigue lies. But “Hillbilly Elegy” simply sidesteps them all, for the most part. Howard paints their effects in vivid, skillful color, but we never explore anything beyond that. It’s an unsatisfying feeling, and one that dominates the viewing experience.

Model Imaan Hammam takes a break from social media

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Updated 23 January 2021

Model Imaan Hammam takes a break from social media

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP

DUBAI: Model Imaan Hammam is taking a social media break “to reset and reflect,” she revealed this week. 

The Dutch catwalk star, who was born to an Egyptian father and a Moroccan mother, took to her Instagram platform to raise awareness about mental health in light of “Blue Monday,” the third Monday in January, which is dubbed to be the most gloomy day of the year.

Urging her one million followers to prioritize their mental well-being, Hammam posted a photo of herself wearing a yellow t-shirt bearing a number for the mental health crisis hotline. 

She wrote: “(Wednesday) was a really exciting step forward for the US. But as we celebrate, I also want to remember that the day-to-day struggles people are facing — especially with mental health — don’t just disappear with a new administration. This past Monday (#BlueMonday) was the supposed scientifically proven most depressing day of the year.”


A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

She went on to encourage her followers to check out music collective Enjoy Being in Transition’s new trilogy of mixes curated by one of fashion’s favorite sound designers, Michel Gaubert, in order to bring peace and harmony and “to be a source of relief and inspiration for a society feeling the fatigue and the effects of depression from this past year.” She even plugged the link to the Blue Room playlist in her Instagram bio.

The 24-year-old also announced that she has started releasing monthly Spotify playlists in an effort to help uplift her fans’ spirits. 

“Speaking of mental health,” she concluded, “I am going to take a little break from social for a bit, just to reset and reflect. Sending you guys love and I’ll be back soon.”

Hammam isn’t the only supermodel to take a break from social media to prioritize their mental health in recent weeks. 


A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Part-Palestinian catwalker Bella Hadid briefly abandoned the photo-sharing social media platform at the beginning of this month. 

A few weeks after departing, Hadid explained to her 38 million followers why she felt she needed to quit. 

“I took some time away to reflect and learn about myself in a way that would be too much to explain at the moment, but with time I will express,” the model wrote. “The memories and fortune I came back with are pure wisdom, a closer relationship with myself and my spirituality, a sense of self-love that I have always lacked, a few great friends, and these books that saw me through.”