Movie review: Hillbilly Elegy
Can the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences just put Amy Adams and Glenn Close out of their collective misery and give them Oscars already?
Perhaps then it would not be as painful watching the pair try so darn hard for the ultimate career recognition, in a barefaced Oscar-baiting "prestige" film helmed by award-winning director Ron Howard and his long-time producing partner Brian Grazer (Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon).
The actresses give it their all - and then some - in Hillbilly Elegy, currently streaming on Netflix.
Between them, both have 13 Oscar nominations, zero wins and all the goodwill in the world.
Their flashiest performances to date ought to seal the deal - and deservedly so.
Never mind that the movie itself has proven to be problematic for US critics, who have come out to crucify its simplistic, inauthentic and caricatured portrayal of the rednecks of "real America" and perceived political thematics.
After all, Hillbilly Elegy's source material - protagonist J.D. Vance's 2016 memoir - gained popularity during the 2016 US election for providing a glimpse into the low-income white demographic that largely supported Mr Donald Trump.
Casual audiences, however, likely have no such issues as they pushed the movie to the top of the Netflix chart, preferring to lean into Howard's flashback-heavy retelling of a deep South family melodrama.
It is a coming-of-age cautionary tale that follows J.D. (a compelling Gabriel Basso, reminiscent of a younger Mark Ruffalo) and the dysfunctional women who raised him, as he reflects on how three generations of their family navigated addiction, strife and poverty during his childhood, before he received his law degree from Yale and achieved the American Dream.
As his junkie mother Bev, Adams is like you have never seen her before - a raw, raging and downward-spiralling ball of self-loathing, bitterness and unfulfilled potential, as she digs deeper and darker into her character to almost a frightening degree, whether she is assaulting a young J.D. or desperately trying to shoot heroin up her leg.
Not to be outdone, Close shines through the distinctive stylings of J.D.'s no-nonsense, tough-love maternal grandmother Mamaw, who gets all the sassy, scene-stealing lines and eventually rescues him from a life of hopelessness and puts him back on the right track.
Nobody can dispute that the acting here is first-class.
So even though Hillbilly Elegy is hardly poetry in motion, neither is it all downhill.
FILM: Hillbilly Elegy
STARRING: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
THE SKINNY: A family emergency pulls Yale law student J.D. Vance (Basso) back to his childhood hometown of Jackson, Kentucky, where he reflects on three generations of tumultuous family history and his own future while helping his troubled mother (Adams) recover from a drug overdose.