Netflix’s new film Hillbilly Elegy is getting called ‘one of the worst movies of the year’

These reviews are savage oh my god

Netflix has just dropped a new movie, Hillbilly Elegy, and the reviews are absolutely savage.

Ron Howard has directed some bangers in his time – a Beautiful Mind, and Apollo 13 spring to mind – but it seems this latest effort is rather more ill-fated.

Dealing with a politically relevant narrative about the hardships of the economically “left-behind” in the USA, the movie is a classic Oscar-bait film. And yet critics really aren’t happy about it.

What’s Hillbilly Elegy about?

Starring Amy Adams and Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy is an adaptation of the 2016 JD Vance memoir of the same name.

The book, depicting poverty in Ohio, became a bestseller, and has been adapted by Netflix and director Ron Howard.

It focuses on Vance, played by Gabriel Basso, returning home to look after his heroin-addicted mother. Dealing not just with addiction, but poverty and domestic abuse, the film explores the difficulties of life in America’s post-industrial south.

netflix hillbilly elegy reviews

Hillbilly Elegy reviews are calling it a “bland melodrama” and “one of the worst movies of the year”

However, the Hillbilly Elegy reviews are, let’s say, not good. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics’ consensus brands it a “bland melodrama”, giving it 25 per cent on the Tomatometer.

“With the form of an awards-season hopeful but the soul of a bland melodrama, Hillbilly Elegy strands some very fine actors in the not-so-deep South.” Ouch.

Writing for the Atlantic, critic David Sims brands it “one of the worst movies of the year”. Calling out the “polished yet utterly inert” film, Sims decries it at hollow Oscar-bait trying to sound clever and deep but managing neither.

Worse still, it strips the source material of “anything that might feel remotely controversial or pointed,” writes Sims.

netflix hillbilly elegy reviews

But beyond just being bad, lawyer Tyler C. Lee, writing for NBC News, says the film is deeply culturally insensitive

“Naturally, the finished product raises the question: How did this movie even get made?”, Lee asks.

Adapting a book which says poor southern people are feckless and responsible for their own lack of success, in the face of a four-year effort by the US political mainstream to show they really care about these people, seems very much not of the moment, Lee argues.

In adapting the book, “Howard has turned a community’s moral failings and human anguish into Oscar bait for those looking to find yet another reason to scoff at the working class.” Yikes.

Writing on Roger Ebert’s blog, Matt Zoller Seitz explains the book, with its depiction of Southern poverty, became “a sort of Rosetta Stone for media pundits trying to understand what happened.”

Still, the two and a half star review gives probably the most generous praise of the film you’ll find: “It’s not a great or even particularly distinctive movie, but it’s heartfelt and plain-spoken enough that it might connect with viewers whose families have dealt with addiction and recovery, domestic abuse, financial deprivation.”

Hillbilly Elegy is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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