Reel Corner - January 2021

Major Films Are Starting to Be Released!

January 2021 Issue
Reel Corner by Donne Paine

Happy New Year and much hope for a return to life
as we knew it soon. In the meantime, major films
are starting to be released! Now that’s exciting.

Hillbilly Elegy
Amy Adams, Glenn Close  |  Director: Ron Howard  |  In Theaters and Netflix

Based on the bestselling memoir by J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy is a modern exploration of the American Dream and three generations of an Appalachian family as told by its youngest member, a Yale Law student forced to return to his hometown.

After buying the rights to Vance's book in 2017, Imagine Entertainment, owned by Brain Grazer and Ron Howard, announced Howard as the film's director. Netflix acquired the distribution rights in January 2019, and much of the cast joined that April. Filming took place from June through August in Georgia and Ohio.

Being raised in West Virginia, The Reel Corner can attest that Hillbilly Elegy is indeed a testimony to the sad picture of many one-industry towns, abandoned and left resembling fictitious Pottersville from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Count on Ron Howard’s directing to create a realistic film for J.D. Vance’s memories. And, if you wait until the end of the film credits and catch a glimpse of the real characters, you will agree the casting director should be awarded for an amazing match of the two female leads.

The film begins in Jackson, Kentucky, in 1997. J.D. is looking back to this time—his teenage years. He is visiting his family with his grandparents and mother, Bev. They go back home to Ohio.

Fourteen years later, J.D. is attending Yale and working three jobs. He attends an event to network in hopes of landing an important internship. He gets a call from his sister, Lindsay, because his mom is in the hospital again after overdosing on heroin. Lindsay is overwhelmed by the situation, as she works and has three children. She asks J.D. to come home, which he feels conflicted about as it is interview week at Yale.

The film’s journey from his adolescence to adulthood and back to establish the story content is a little confusing at times, but overall successful in telling his story.

Award shows are all delayed until spring. My predictions: Amy Adams and Glenn Close should both be in contention and deservedly so.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman  |  Director: George C Wolfe  |  On Netflix

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a celebration of three real-life artists and legends. There’s the blues singer, often referred to as the “Mother of the Blues,” whose name and song give the film its title. There’s the author, August Wilson,  who, inspired by Rainey and the era she found fame in, crafted his 1984 play around her larger-than-life persona. And there’s Chadwick Boseman, taken from us way too soon, who chose this difficult material to play while living with cancer. We’ll never know if Boseman knew this would be his swan song; the fact that it is haunts the viewer. Boseman never gave less than 100 percent to his often-demanding roles. His work here as the trumpet player, Levee, is no exception. It’s no stretch to say his last performance may be his finest.

Levee is a fast-talking, ambitious charmer, as quick with his horn as he is with a come-on line. He’s old enough to know better, but young enough to think he can outrun the consequences of his actions. Levee has loftier goals than his current job as a member of the backing band of Ma Rainey. He wants to arrange existing songs and compose his own music—this is bound to cause dissent. But, there can only be one diva.

On a recent “60 Minutes” episode, 55-year-old Viola Davis shared her journey from poverty to graduating from The Juilliard School to winning a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar. True to all of her performances, Davis inhabits her roles. In Ma Rainey she not only put-on weight, wore a fat suit and gold teeth, but also embodied the 1920 mother of the blues with the passion and tenacity she imagines a woman in the 1920s would be dealing with. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a film you will not soon forget because of the superb acting and directing.


ReelCorner 1219 Donne
Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Wells Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. Supporter of the arts­—especially films—she travels to local and national film festivals including Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca. There is nothing like seeing a film on the big screen. She encourages film goers to support Hilton Head local theaters—Coligny, Park Plaza and Northridge theaters. To support her habit of frequent movie going Donne is a retired executive recruiter and staff development consultant. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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