Posts Tagged Ron Howard

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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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

solo-a-star-wars-story-uk-poster12A | 2h 15min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 24 May 2018 (UK)
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan | 1 more credit »
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke

I hadn’t realised how hated Disney were by some till I started reading the reviews for Solo! Whilst this movie has its flaws I found it entertaining.

The plot is simple and straighforward. A young Han Solo joins a gang of galactic smugglers and travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal valuable coaxium (used to make fuel). Alden Ehrenreich as the young Solo isn’t as rugged or cynical as Harrison Ford’s version. That’s part of the problem. Many Star Wars fans found they young Solo unconvincing. Could this “pretty boy” really survive amongst the scum of the universe and become the older Solo? A man who seems to owe all the most dangerous people in the Universe money and lives on the edge and on the run. The answer for many was a resounding “No!”. Yet this is a younger Solo, setting out, learning lessons and becoming a man.

The film also has to tick some boxes along the way. He has to get his ship the Millennium Falcon. He must meet a certain Wookie etc. This is all weaved in fairly convincingly though.

Great action scenes and an interesting love interest in the form of eye-candy and great actor Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra. The dynamic of the relationship between Han and Qi’ra is fascinating. As Emillia said: “They grew up as comrades, essentially. They grew up as pals, as partners in crime. There is obviously the romantic side of things. But they grew up together. So they were kids together.”

There are some great supporting actors too, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett (to name just a few).

Go with an open mind and you may enjoy it!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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