‘Hillbilly Elegy’ movie: Middletown reacts to trailer, anticipation of November release

Now that the trailer has been released for the movie version of J.D. Vance’s book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis” many Middletown residents are looking forward to seeing the movie that was filmed in part in the city.

The Netflix movie, “Hillbilly Elegy," is directed by Ron Howard and stars Amy Adams and Glenn Close, and the trailer indicates it will be released Nov. 24 on Netflix and in select theaters. One of those select theaters, The NEON in Dayton, will feature “Hillbilly Elegy” starting Nov. 11.

In a video about why he made the movie, Howard said the movie is “a family drama based on real events, a journey of a young, intelligent guy who loves his family and his family loves him. But the particulars of the family created some baggage.”

Howard said he became fascinated by Vance’s journey and the relatability of his story.

“I love family stories but I’ve never had one that was a true story that dealt with characters from rural America,” Howard said in the video.

“It looks great,” said Heather Gibson, owner of Triple Moon Coffee Company, when asked if she saw the trailer. “It’s Glenn Close. What more can you say?”

Gibson’s coffee shop was a favorite of Howard’s on his many scouting trips to the Middletown area before filming and during filming in August 2019.

In fact, while the movie was being filmed in the Atlanta area, Gibson said she shipped Howard some ground expresso and ground Middletown blend coffee.

“This story is only one person’s story,” Gibson said about the film’s possible impact on Middletown. “I’m hoping Ron didn’t put Middletown in a bad light and I wouldn’t expect anything less. He spent a lot of time here and got to know a lot of people. But I’m also a believer that any publicity is good publicity.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing it,” she said.

Ami Vitori, a local business owner, Middletown City Council member and a friend of Vance’s, said she is “really excited” about the upcoming release.

“I know some people are nervous on how the city will be portrayed in a bad light,” she said. “It’s one person’s story and it’s a great story. Not many towns get to be featured in a movie. I’m optimistic that it will be more positive than negative.”

Mary Huttlinger, Middletown Visitors Bureau executive director, said she recognized some snippets of Middletown scenes in the trailer.

“I think the movie will allow discussion and dialogue about Middletown in general and how Middletown celebrates its successes and overcomes obstacles and challenges,” she said. “It’s a story not unique to Middletown and its something the nation has been struggling in for decades.”

Huttlinger said from a visitors bureau perspective, current events directly or indirectly have an impact on tourism.

“This gives Middletown a chance to be in the spotlight and it’s up to Middletown how it will be in that spotlight,” Huttlinger said.

She said there are a lot of opportunities to promote tourism. One idea, depending which local scenes make the final cut of the movie, could be developing a self-guided tour of the Middletown movie locations, similar to the current self-guided mural tours available.

“'Hillbilly Elegy' is about the evolution of the family unit, pursuit of the American Dream, and owning our own futures," said Mayor Nicole Condrey.

“Through struggles, come opportunities. Middletown has experienced a wide variety of challenges, and we have grown stronger through each one. As the film will inevitably depict in heartwarming fashion J.D. Vance’s personal journey to success, Middletown welcomes the world to not just watch but participate in our city’s parallel journey. Middletown, Ohio is the story of America. Our future is our own.”

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