Movie Notes: Hillbilly Elegy

I liked the book more, to be honest, but it’s a good, solid movie. I have no idea what all the fuss is about and why people are making it about Trump. There’s not a shade of anything political in the movie.

The part I didn’t like is what makes it a typical Hollywood film and not a work of art. It’s the part about the exceptional one-in-a-million striver who overcomes and gets ahead through hard work. I understand that the movie is biographical, and this is truly what happened to JD Vance. I deeply admire him. But the movies about exceptional strivers abound. I’ve seen a million of them. What I’d like to see is a movie about the unexceptionable, the run of the mill, the regular. I’m interested in their lives.

But this is typical Hollywood. A predictable, saccharine mold that turns everything into a sappy soap opera. In other countries, filmmakers know how to make movies about normal people but in the US it never happens anymore.

Within the genre of Hollywood movies, Hillbilly Elegy is great. Everybody except for the guy playing JD as an adult is s very good actor. The actors all look eerily like the people they are playing. Glenn Close is amazing but we always knew that.

There is a scene at a fancy dinner at Yale early in the movie that’s a terrible cliche and deathly boring but once you get past that, it gets a lot better.

That this extremely typical Hollywood movie suddenly got so controversial because it’s based on the book by somebody who is conservative shows how crazy people have become. It’s gotten so nuts that I’ve seen people seriously debate whether the portrayal of Kentucky fauna in the film is true to life.

Not everything is political, folks. This is a movie about growing up in an abusive, dysfunctional, chaotic household. The book does make an effort to draw conclusions about society and history. But the movie isn’t about that at all.

P.S. Here is what I wrote about the book back when I was a passionate Hillary supporter.