Jack Russo’s review published on Letterboxd:
How a privileged director, a prestigious actor and an indie-facing major studio sold Hillbilly Elegy to the festival circuit as the next great realisation about the margins. Because not even those who live a drifting life are free from their homes being coopted for the capital of commercial art.
I mean that’s a very reductive take but at the same time - can you have honesty when it’s harmonised to a Ludovico Einaudi score? Or truth when it’s tethered to McDormand’s depiction of a struggle? In their bubbles, sure. The keys yearn for the Great American Landscape, nomads are afforded the opportunity of defining their lived perspective and McDormand contemplates the anchors of memory that are tying her existence to this whole journey. But they only exist in that bubble, these interpretations roaming without any sense of synergy. Their interactions pass almost entirely in shot / reverse shot with the cut being a declaration of fact before the fiction, Zhao being afraid of trying to reconcile willing performance with economic certainty as she’s aware intentions do not bridge gaps. At least not enough to let them share the same frame.
Now whether respect is just the case of allowing easy designation between the lived and the created is debatable. Though as a result it merely teeters on the edge of aestheticised poverty, backing away from any possessive authority by allowing real voices their tribulations, the artifice a contemplation left gazing into the distant sunset. But then how the fuck are you supposed to accept these foundations of autonomy when its pillars are cast in a smiling embrace of Amazon?