‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Trailer: Ron Howard Explores the Hardships of White People in Appalachia

     October 14, 2020


Netflix has released the trailer for Ron Howard’s adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy. Based on the memoir by J.D. Vance, the film chronicles his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams) and how he was raised by his resilient grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close).

To be blunt, I don’t think Ron Howard is a particularly good director. There are some flashes along the way like Apollo 13 and Rush, but most of the time he never finds the emotional throughline and creates a forgettable product. He won his Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, and no one really talks or thinks about that movie anymore. Meanwhile, he’s churned out anonymous movies like In the Heart of the Sea and The Dilemma, or atrocious dramas like Cinderella Man. Hillbilly Elegy looks like it could fall in the latter category.

Hillbilly Elegy became a hit in the fallout of the 2016 election as the media rushed to try and understand why rust belt states went for Trump, and hit upon the notion of “economic anxiety,” because we must always excuse the feelings of white people in this country. Of course, the economy rebounded and then went off a cliff and Trump’s approval stayed at around 42%, so that excuse was always a farce. But Hillbilly Elegy was still a hit, and so it must be adapted, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Adams and Close win Oscars for this even though it doesn’t look like the best work from either actor. Maybe Hillbilly Elegy will prove me wrong, but I can’t imagine a movie more poorly timed for 2020.

Check out the trailer below. The film arrives on Netflix on November 24th, and also stars Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins, and Owen Asztalos.

Here’s the official synopsis for Hillbilly Elegy:

J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey.


Based on J.D. Vance’s #1 New York Times Bestseller and directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, HILLBILLY ELEGY is a powerful personal memoir that offers a window into one family’s personal journey of survival and triumph. By following three colorful generations through their unique struggles, J.D.’s family story explores the highs and lows that define his family’s experience.


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