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  • Tori Thoele

Hillbilly Elegy Review

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

by Tori Thoele

According to the National Institutes of Health, “10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives and 75 percent report not receiving any form of treatment." When you think about it, 10 percent doesn’t seem like a big number, but when you're looking at 10% of the American population as a whole it starts to become a bit more clear. Everyone I know, including myself, have seen a family member or friend battle a drug addiction. Saint Louis alone, “has been dubbed “ground zero” for the heroin epidemic”.

A recent movie that has come out on Netflix and has continued to stay relevant in it’s top ten most popular programs is “Hillbilly Elegy." With a star studded cast including Amy Adams and Glenn Close, the movie was bound to establish itself as one of Netflix’s most beloved originals. But what most people see as entertainment, and don’t get me wrong it was thrilling to watch, others see as harsh reminders of what addiction can be like for the family members and friends involved. This is good though, this topic needs to be talked about, because like I’ve stated before most everyone I know has been affected by addiction in one form or the other.

Hillbilly Elegy is based on a memoir that was written by J.D. Vance. The movie follows closely to the book to portray a southern family, who’s one of their own, Bev, begins to get addicted to prescription pills. With addiction running in the family, Bev continues to cheat, lie, and steal her way through life, and all of this is done through the mold-able and influential lens of J.D. Vance, who is Bev’s son. At the height of poor parenting skills, Bev even asks J.D. for his pee so she can pass her drug test for nursing school.

Not only does Hillbilly explore addiction, but abuse as well. It is later revealed later on in the movie that Bev’s father was a drunk, who used to hit her mother. In between flashbacks of J.D’s childhood and the present, the audience learns that Bev is a by product of the abuse her family adorned, and thus Bev behaves in the same way her father did with her own children. The movie does a great job at looking at the cycle of abuse that presents itself in many families across America.

But honestly, what it does best is show how drug addiction and abuse affects the family as a whole. During J.D’s teenage years, he starts to go down the wrong path in which he dabbles in marijuana use and breaking and entering. Without the help of his grandma, MawMaw, who takes him in and raises him herself, J.D. was doomed to repeat his family's history. Even when the movie flashbacks to the present where his mother is hospitalized for an almost fatal overdose, J.D. struggles with the decision on if he should go back home and help his mother, who has never been there for him, or go to an important interview for internship with a law firm.

No matter the ending of the movie, Hillbilly Elegy sheds light on the family who is always undoubtedly there for their family member or friend who battles with addiction, knowing that they might not ever see that person recover. Because after all, family is what matters.


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