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Hillbilly Elegy: Director Ron Howard defends ‘sickeningly irresponsible’ film

The Independent logo The Independent 02/12/2020 Ellie Harrison
a man that is standing in the grass © Provided by The Independent

Ron Howard, the director of the new Netflix film Hillbilly Elegy, has defended the movie after it received negative reviews.

The drama, which stars Amy Adams and Glenn Close and is based on the white, working-class Appalachian community in JD Vance’s controversial 2016 memoir, was described by The Independent’s critic Clarisse Loughrey as “a sickeningly irresponsible parade of death and despair”.  

It has been widely criticised for perpetuating stereotypes about the poor, and Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson called it “a tone-deaf attempt to assuage a very particular kind of liberal guilt by reifying the very thing that caused the guilt in the first place”.

Appearing on CBS This Morning on Tuesday (1 December), Howard suggested that those who were critical of his film might be taking aim at wider political issues. “I do feel like they’re looking at political thematics that they may or may not disagree with that, honestly, are not really reflected or are not front and centre in this story,” he said.

Howard added: “What I saw was a family drama that could be very relatable. Yes, culturally specific, and if you’re fascinated by that, I hope you find it interesting.  

“If you’re from the region, I hope you find it authentic because certainly that was our aim and that was our effort. But I felt that it was a bridge to understanding that we’re more alike than we are different.”

The film’s stars, Adams and Close, also recently defend the film, with Adams saying: “I think the universality of the themes of the movie far transcend politics."

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