Review: 'Hillbilly Elegy' Does Not Have Much To Say : Pop Culture Happy Hour The book Hillbilly Elegy was a phenomenon in 2016. Writer J.D. Vance wrote about growing up in Ohio and Kentucky, and about his family's struggles with addiction, abuse and poverty. He tried to both explain and critique the white Appalachian experience, to profoundly mixed reviews. Now, a film adaptation on Netflix sticks mostly to the dramatic elements of Vance's story, from his mother's battles with addiction to his path to law school. It's directed by Ron Howard and stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams.