VIDEO: First Look At 'Hillbilly Elegy' Before Nov. 24 Release

Oct 14, 2020

Netflix has released the first look at Hillbilly Elegy, the $45-million adaptation of J.D. Vance's best-selling memoir about growing up in Middletown, which opens in "select theaters" Nov. 24.

Oscar nominees Glenn Close and Amy Adams star in the film shot mostly in Georgia in 2019. Oscar-winning director Ron Howard filmed the final week in Middletown in August last year. Most of the scenes in the trailer appear to be shot in Georgia.

The Nov. 24 release – on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – will make the film eligible for the Academy Awards. "Given that so many movies have been delayed this year, it stands a very good chance of picking up some awards," says Vulture.

In Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Vance described how his maternal grandmother (Close) stepped in to raise him due to his mother's (Adams) drug addictions. It's a very unglamorous role for Close, who plays a chain-smoking old woman who likes to wear oversized T-shirts and pajama pants.

Glenn Close as "Mawmaw" shooting a scene on Harrison Street in August 2019.
Credit John Kiesewetter / WVXU

"I thought your Momma was going to be all right. Be happy," Close's Mawmaw tells Vance in the trailer. "I could have done a better. But you – you've got to decide – you want to be somebody or not?"

The trailer shows Vance as a child portrayed by Owen Asztalos (Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and as a teen joining the U.S. Marines played by Gabriel Basso (The Whole Truth, The Big C).

In the book, Vance describes growing up among poor working class "hillbillies" in the Southwestern Ohio steel town. After graduating from Middletown High School in 2003, he enlisted in the Marines, served in Iraq, and came home to study political science and philosophy at Ohio State University. He later earned his law degree from Yale in 2013.

Vanessa Taylor's screenplay was "inspired by a true story," according to the credits, not "based on" a true story. 

Amy Adams talks with fans after shooting a scene on Harrison Street in August 2019.
Credit John Kiesewetter / WVXU

Netflix describes the story this way:

"J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey.

"Based on J.D. Vance’s #1 New York Times Bestseller and directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, 'Hillbilly Elegy' is a powerful personal memoir that offers a window into one family’s personal journey of survival and triumph. By following three colorful generations through their unique struggles, J.D.’s family story explores the highs and lows that define his family’s experience."

A film crew shoot Owen Asztalos (young J.D. Vance) biking on North Avenue in Middletown in August 2019.
Credit John Kiesewetter / WVXU

The cast includes Haley Bennett (The Girl On The Train, The Equalizer), Helen Abell (Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black), Ethan Suess (Fear The Walking Dead, Scorpion, Alex Inc.), Amy Parrish (Black Lightning, Homeland, House of Cards, Stranger Things), Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, The Path), Sunny Mabrey (Snakes On A Plane), Bo Hopkins (Dynasty, Murder She Wrote) and Jesse C. Boyd (MacGyver, Gone), according to the Internet Movie Database.

The Middletown scenes were filmed on Harrison Street in the 100-year-old Park Place neighborhood, two blocks away from Vance's McKinley Street home.