Posts Tagged Amy Adams

Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

Hillbilly Elegy is a film based on the novel of the same name by J.D. Vance.

Hillbillies in popular culture have usually been represented as figures of fun, even ridicule. Older readers will remember “The Beverly Hillbillies”, a TV comedy series based on a family from the Appalachian Mountains when oil was struck on their land, producing untold riches. They moved to California and continued to live like hillbillies in, of course, Beverly Hills. More affectionately, Don Macleans “Good ol boys drinkin` whiskey and rye” were clearly hillbilly types, albeit from further south. The hillbillies represented in this film could scarcely be more different.

So who were the hillbillies? Descended mainly from Scotch and Irish Protestant settlers who had ventured westward into the Appalachian Mountains from the 1750s onwards they had lived primitive lives in small, isolated mountain settlements with a good deal of in-breeding. The Appalachian Mountain chain stretches north to south from the Canadian border to the northern counties of Alabama and Georgia, but the hillbilly heartland is centred on West Virginia and the eastern areas of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. The discovery of coal in the 19th century led to major industrial developments in this still mainly rural and scenic region, but they were concentrated in small towns and villages. To this day the region has no large cities. Marked by violent industrial strife, impoverished by the Great Depression and, after a brief period of prosperity, suffering from the effects of post-industrialisation from the 1980s it has the lowest living standards of any region in the U.S.A. In racial terms it has remained overwhelmingly white. This is the Hillbilly country depicted in the film – poor, white, backward and devastated by an opioid epidemic. The film is set around Jackson, eastern Kentucky, and the small industrial town of Middletown, Ohio. A review in AP News described the book on which the film was based as “an election year explainer (2016) to liberal America about the white underclass that fuelled Donald Trump`s rise”

The film is autobiographical, based on the experiences of 3 generations of one family. Mamaw (Glen Close), the grandmother who holds the family together, Beverley (Amy Adams), her daughter and J.D. (Gabriel Vasso) Beverley`s son and the author of the novel. J.D. has progressed from a troubled childhood, enlisted as a Marine and used the money earned to work his way through Ohio State University. His scheduled interview for a post in a prestigious firm on Wall Street is jeopardised by an emergency call from his sister back home – their mother has succumbed yet again to an overdose of drugs. The family story is told through a series of flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence. It is moving and, at times, frightening. The film had a mixed reception, with nominations for both the Golden Globe and the Golden Raspberry (Close became the third performer in history to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry for the same performance). The film was criticised for perpetuating stereotypes about the poor and praised for its realism.

J.D. Vance himself is an aspiring Republican politician considering a run for the United States Senate in 2022 representing his home state of Ohio. A successful venture capitalist, he is being tipped as a future Presidential candidate (he will be 44 in 2028). Indeed some regard “Hillbilly Elegy” as a promotional film with this in mind. Watch it (it`s on Netflix) and see for yourself!

Reviewed by Henry Falconer
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: J.D. Vance (based on the book by), Vanessa Taylor
Stars: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso

View the trailer

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Her (2014)

Her-with-Theodore-Twombly-on-red-movie-poster-wideI was recently talking to my father about how many films I’d seen lately that were lacking an interesting plot. I find it quite common in action films that the story is a bit weak but that the visuals usually make up for that, but I found myself craving a good story after seeing a string of action movies, which is when I read the synopsis for a film showing in the local cinema called ‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Scarlett Johansson.
After reading that the film was a sci fi about a man who falls in love with his computer operating system I decided to see the film straight away. It’s set in the year 2025 and follows the story of Theodore Twombly played by Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore is going through a painful divorce from his wife Catherine (played by Rooney Mara) when he decides to purchase a computer operating system with artificial intelligence. This is referred to as an ‘OS’ in the film.
Theodore chooses for his particular OS to be female. He communicates with her verbally and vice versa. She is played beautifully by Scarlett Johansson who’s character chooses in the film to be named Samantha.
There is room for a lot of comedy due to the nature of Theodore’s situation and I found myself laughing out loud multiple times throughout the first half of the film. I got used to the theme of the film by halfway but also it took on a more serious tone as higher drama ensues around that point. I would describe the film as an emotional roller-coaster in that regard.
Once I had gotten into the flow of it and was expecting more comedy I was shocked by quite tender moments of conflict between Theodore and his OS Samantha. Wanting to see a film with a good story I was not let down by ‘Her’. While it is not an action movie it does offer some good visuals in the form of ‘future fashion’ as I would call it. People are dressed in a memorable style of colourful attire.
One slight drawback I felt was that Olivia Wilde’s character is used only briefly in the film. I became aware of Olivia Wilde for the first time when I saw Tron Legacy and because I liked her in that I had hoped she would play a bigger part in ‘Her’ but sadly that was not the case. Another thing that bothered me a bit was that only Scarlet Johansson’s voice is used in the film but looking back I can see why that was better for the film overall. Her voice acting is incredibly precise emotionally and I wonder how many takes it took to get it all just right.
Overall, I think it’s a great film and that has been reflected in its reception as it has received critical acclaim and has done exceptionally well at the box office in contrast to its budget.
Reviewed by Alistair Martin

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