Finnegan On Films: Stunning Performances From Close And Adams In ‘Hillbilly Elegy’

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James Finnegan reviews Ron Howard’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ which was released this week on Netflix…

I cannot remember a time when there have been so many talented actresses on television, theatre and film.

If one were to use one guide, just look back and see the winners of the Best Actress Oscar.

In the last decade alone we have seen Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, Emma Stone, Frances McDormand, Olivia Coleman and Renee Zellweger pick up the statuette.

All of these were totally deserved and worthy.  However, there are four other nominees who are no less worthy, but supposedly “unsuccessful”.

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Two fine actresses have multiple nominations, which would suggest and confirm a prolonged body of successful work.  Glenn Close has been nominated seven times, Amy Adams has six nominations, but up to now no wins.  I suspect that might change after this film.

Hillbilly Elegy is not always an easy watch.  That might explain why there has been a mixed reaction to this latest Neflix offering.

Glenn Close and Amy Adams in ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

If I had to give a one line description, I would say it was ‘The Waltons go to the Dark Side’.  That it is a true story makes it even more poignant.

Based on J.D. Vance’s 2016 “misery memoir” of the same name, and set in the Appalachian mountains, the film jumps between two timelines, that of 1997 and 2007.  In the earlier times, J.D. (Owen Asztalos) is an adolescent, being raised by his mom, Bev, played by Adams, who has her own difficulties and challenges.  His straight talking Mamaw (Close) often has to step in to pick up the pieces.

Fourteen years on, J.D, now played by Gabriel Basso, has moved on from his Hillbilly roots to graduate to Yale Law School.

His has a supportive girlfriend (Freida Pinto) and has an important interview to work in a prestigious law firm.

However, he gets an urgent phone call from his sister (another fine performance from Haley Bennett – watch out for her in the future).  Bev has been admitted to hospital and he is needed at home.

At a time when it is said there are few good roles for women, this film does its best to give an alternative argument, in both starring and supporting characters.

Let me say now if Close and Adams do not get nominated for multiple awards, there must be some wonderful performances coming down the line.  This is acting of the highest quality.  They totally inhabit the role as can be seen by the end credits.

Let me put my neck on the line now and say that Glenn Close will win an Oscar.  Despite all the prosthetics, this Terminator quoting Grandma is a jewel of a role that allows her to show off the vast range of her talents.

Directed by Ron Howard, no stranger to the Oscars and award ceremonies himself, a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and written by Vanessa Taylor, this is a quality film, for grown-ups. Enjoy and stay safe.

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