In a time where the world is as polarized as ever, there seems to be a yearning to show oppression in all cultures. With Black Lives Matter gaining significant traction, a film about a Caucasian venture capitalist’s upbringing doesn’t feel exactly well-timed in our climate. Despite two magnificent actresses like Amy Adams and Glenn Close at the helm, director Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” may face trouble on the awards circuit.
With a collective 13 Oscar nominations and zero wins shared between them, Adams and Close have long been considered as overdue as any actresses working today. Close is currently the most nominated woman in Oscar history without a win at seven, with Adams tied for second with Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter with six. Adams, whose significant nominations have included “Junebug” and “The Fighter” in supporting actress, has only been able to nab one lead nomination for 2013’s “American Hustle.” She’s even managed a few memorable snubs, including “Arrival” and “Enchanted,” which tends to help with an overdue narrative. But I don’t think it’ll be so easy for Adams this time around.
As the drug-addicted Bev, mother to J.D. Vance, who wrote the memoir that the movie is based on, she mounts a brave, and at times, sensational performance, one that is worthy of awards consideration. However, with a likely campaign coming in the best actress race, she feels more appropriate for a supporting category, as the film is plainly J.D.’s story. With a stacked lead race so far that includes Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), she’s likely to face an uphill battle.
For co-star Close, whose most recent loss was for 2018’s “The Wife,” she hopes to finally complete her Oscar journey that began with 1982’s “The World According to Garp.” As Mamaw, J.D. Vance’s foul-mouthed yet loving grandmother, she’s afforded some of the basic awards tropes that AMPAS has typically embraced in the past. With a supporting actress category that hasn’t exuded a lot of passion thus far, the big question seems to be: will the veteran actress finally get her due? Here’s the challenge — the film may have difficulty finding traction in any other category. There have only been four supporting actress winners in the last 40 years that have been the sole nominations for their movies — Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008), Angelina Jolie in “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” (1992) and Linda Hunt in “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982). Furthermore, the supporting actress race has women from best picture contenders like Olivia Colman (“The Father”) and Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”), who may suck up most of the air in the room.
So where else can the movie find awards traction? Makeup and hairstyling may factor in as that race often rewards “most” rather than “best” (i.e. “Suicide Squad”), as the de-glam tricks used by previous nominees often find love. For screenwriter Vanessa Taylor, Oscar-nominated for co-writing “The Shape of Water,” the adapted race is far too competitive for this to find room.
The music branch likes its familiar golden boys, so it would be silly to count out 11-time nominee and winner Hans Zimmer, who partnered with David Fleming. For director Ron Howard, who won the Oscar for best director for 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind,” his awards efforts will be better served for his documentary “Rebuilding Paradise” from National Geographic.
For a story that hones in on the “Appalachian values” and the “American dream,” this is likely to be eaten up by a certain 70 million-person demographic, with a few select Academy members. For the rest of the entertainment-watching world, this looks like a failure to read the room, in an effort to provide another example that “all lives matter” and there are “very fine people on both sides.”
“Hillbilly Elegy” may face vocal detractors, with others finding solace in its performances, but the drawn-out and extended season may be its worst enemy in seeking gold. The film will be released in select theaters on Nov. 11 and on Netflix streaming on Nov. 24.
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Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Director
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup and Hairstyling
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Sound
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature