“Hillbilly Elegy,” a superb five-sawblade movie, will surely garner Oscar nominations for Best Actress for Glen Close or Amy Adams. It should also get a Best Director nomination for the incredible Ron Howard (he isn’t just Dallas Brice Howard’s dad, he is a prolific actor and a director of power and grace.) It should fairly be nominated for Best Picture as well.
If your family has members who struggle with the demons of alcohol or drugs or both, this may strike very close to home. The autobiographical story from the book by J.D. Vance charts three generations of a family, with each generation having struggles that they never truly win. It is a chilling and accurate tale of a particular family but many of us will recognize the patterns and problems.
And the acting is out of this world great. Adams here achieves the acme of her career as an actress. She has played Lois Lane and Lynn Cheney but never has she done better. She has six Oscar nominations and this role should bring her another. Close, with seven Oscar nominations, plays Grandma, the first generation depicted in the movie. She is also just great. Freida Pinto, of “Slum Dog Millionaire,” plays the girlfriend of Vance.
Bo Hopkins, with an amazing 132 credits, manages a wonderful delivery as Grandpa with just a very few lines. Haley Bennett, 32, plays Vance’s sister, transitioning from a teenager to a wife and mother. And new to me, Gabriel Basso plays the lead with the right combination of desperation, ambition and duty. Grand performances all.
Howard has two Oscars, for Best Picture and Best Director for “A Beautiful Mind.” He has made such successful and different films as “Splash” and “Apollo 13.”
Veteran Hollywood wordsmith Vanessa Taylor (“Game of Thrones” among others) produced the script from the original biography by Vance.
For movie people, this is about as good as humans can make movies for us. It runs for 1 hour 56 minutes. The R rating is for terrible personal behavior, drug use, violence and attempted suicide.
This bit of movie data may spin your head a little. Hopkins and Howard both played in “American Graffiti” in 1973, another truly great film and an incubator for very successful show biz careers.