Hillbilly Elegy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Hillbilly Elegy is a film about generational differences, family dysfunction and psychological trauma that all stems from childhood. The film is adapted from the memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. There is a different way of life in Middletown, Ohio and the memoir explored how he was personally affected by his family. Ron Howard pulls career best performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close but it just falls short as a whole.

The screenplay, which was adapted by Vanessa Taylor, seemed promising at the beginning of the film. There was a voiceover from a young J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) explaining how life was for him, living with his family and what category they fit into in the grand scale of America. The film does dive into childhood psychological trauma and how each generation has somehow damaged the next.

It does not matter how it’s delivered, it can be any form of abuse, no matter how miniscule, children are most definitely affected. It felt like an endless cycle of trauma and misguided hatred within the family unit and that is what made certain scenes rather upsetting. The decisions made by generations before, somehow affects the lineage and all it takes is one family member to break the cycle and in this case, it was J.D. Vance.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Glenn Close and Amy Adams

My dear Amy Adams – an actress who has always gone above and beyond the script- has never had a bad performance, she was transformed as Bev and had incredibly strong, emotional moments. Watching her go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Glenn Close, was something I didn’t know I needed. Both have been underappreciated by the Academy for many, many years and if this film is what it takes, then so be it. The film simply does not work without the two of them.

Hillbilly Elegy had some strong moments but the editing made everything feel disjointed and episodic, rather than a fluid structure as a whole. The flashbacks were filled with traumatic emotional moments, that seemed to cut through J.D.’s peace in trying to get a summer internship. It is a film that does its job in blatantly showing real social issues, while allowing its stars to put on an acting clinic to carry the film to the end.

For Glenn Close and Amy Adams, make sure you check out Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix November 24th.

The Devil All the Time Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Devil All the Time is a film that is adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Donald Ray Pollock. It has a wonderful cast of actors and it highlights their strengths, in this slow burn psychological thriller. The religious, Christian ideals are tested and what is considered “right”, is in the eye of the beholder.

There are moments in this film that are assembled and revealed so well, that the way everything unfolds, will make you question everyone’s morals. Director Antonio Campos, made some great choices and there are moments that will completely catch you off guard because of how graphic certain scenes are. Some characters have a more timid presence, so the more gruesome scenes were shocking.

On paper this cast is incredible but the way they are all placed and spread out in the film, left me underwhelmed. The first half of this film, we are introduced to Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) and Carl Henderson (Jason Clarke) in a restaurant. They are both very reserved but have something waiting to snap, in the veil behind their eyes. The men in this town, all had the same look, their eyes crazed, while having a timid demeanour.

Even though the central story is about the demons of lineage and family trauma, for Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), the women in this film were severely underused. How can you cast Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Riley Keough and Eliza Scanlen but underuse them? The women in this story, were used to further the plot of the men in the town and it was frustrating, given how much talent they have.

Photo: Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix
(Left) Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as Young Arvin Russell

It is a very slow film about Christians in the ’50s and how everyone’s morals can be tested, by what the correct way to live is. Everyone moves in secret, everyone has their demons, that is why the title of this film makes complete sense, the devil will tempt you at every turn, it is up to you and your compass, to decipher what is right or wrong, in the face of God.

The saviours of the second half of this film are Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and the King of accents himself… Robert Pattinson. After 40 minutes, the film picks up and we are taken into the lives of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) and Lenora Lafferty (Eliza Scanlen) as a new Reverend comes into town, named Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) and changes everyone’s lives.

The Devil All the Time seems like a very long journey, with all these characters, who all have something to hide, but turn to God, to guide them in what they consider, the “right” direction. Morals are tested, lives are at stake and the executioner, can be sitting right beside them in church. It has great performances and an ending, that will mirror your feelings by the end.

Make sure to check out The Devil All the Time on Netflix September 16th!