“Your people will have your back. That’s our code,” insists Yale law student JD Vance (Gabriel Basso), reflecting on the Appalachian values of his Kentucky family. Director Ron Howard’s misjudged attempt to translate that code into a feelgood movie only highlights the limits of Hollywood intervention. Based on Vance’s hugely popular conservative memoir about class mobility, the film ping-pongs between the lead-up to a key job interview and flashbacks to the poverty the venture capitalist would eventually transcend.
It’s a prestige slog, full of flat, sneering caricatures. A prosthetics-disguised Glenn Close gurns through platitudes about family, good manners and hard work in an oversize T-shirt and distracting wig as Vance’s grandmother. The usually reliable Amy Adams is even worse, descending into shrieking histrionics as his opioid-addicted mother. The performances create anthropological distance, not human empathy.