MEET – Telling the underprivileged childhood of a financial cracker, the social fresco on disadvantaged white America produced by Netflix has made waves. At Figaro, the director returns with his stars, Amy Adams and Glenn Close, on his ambitions.
“A pornographic vision of poverty”, “A compassionate but little moving portrait of harsh lives which completely leaves aside the political side”, “A hero who borders on sociopathy”. American critics have not been kind to An American ode, yet carried by the astonishing performances of Glenn Close and Amy Adams in imperfect and sometimes unworthy mothers courage.
Ron Howard’s latest film, online since Tuesday on Netflix, tells how against all odds, a young man will lie to family fate and join the prestigious Yale University despite a precarious childhood, marked by the addiction to opiates of his mother Bev (Amy Adams) and the suffering of a beloved grandmother Mamaw, victim of domestic violence. Played by Glenn Close, this proven matriarch is yet the heart of the family and will push her grandson not to reproduce ancestral patterns.
Portrait over three generations of the misery of an underprivileged and working-class white population, praise of perseverance and maternal love, An American ode is the adaptation of childhood memories of financial crack JD Vance. Published in 2016, these memoirs became the manifesto of Republicans in Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. And this may be the first misunderstanding between Ron Howard and the critics, as the director of Exceptional Man assumes: “With An American ode, I wanted to focus on family dynamics, on the challenges overcome by JD Vance but not on the socio-political aspects mentioned in his book. I wanted to show what brings us together, what unites us, and not what opposes us ”. Moreover, JD Vance only intervened as a consultant but did not have editorial control.
“Create a human connection”
And Ron Howard to confide in Figaro during a round table: “I hope that this immersion in this Rust Belt environment, so rarely shown on screen, will make spectators want to open their eyes to their compatriots they don’t know and to create a human connection, a new perspective. It is not about opposing the good guys and the bad guys. Rather, I reasoned according to the notion of decisions and regrets ”.While working on this film draws tears, the ex star of Happy days became aware of a common cultural heritage. “My grandparents like those of JD Vance were from this region of the Appalachians, between Oklahoma and Kansas. As with the character of Glenn Close, we called our grandmother Mamaw. I had never paid attention to this word, to these cadences, these ways of speaking“.
“An American odehe shows how two women helped stop the vicious cycle of generational inheritance. When poverty, economic hardship is so entrenched, so too are the dysfunctions they cause.Ron Howard notes. “Bev and Mamaw couldn’t escape it themselves, but they pushed JD and it is very significant that JD never cut ties with his own. “.
Glenn Close still in the race for the Oscars
Amy Adams doesn’t say anything else: “This film illustrates the transmission of trauma from generation to generation, but also the ferocity of women. Mamaw certainly failed to save himself and save his daughter, but seeing JD Vance slipped down the same slope said stop. As long as we do not manage to confront these realities, we can only perpetuate them and hurt those around us. To play Bev, you didn’t have to judge her but honor her broken desires and dreams. Her own failure as a mother devastated her“. And Glenn Close to interrupt and add: “In parent-child relationships, the burden of forgiveness will always rest on the child.”
The Vances supported Ron Howard’s vision. They opened their archives to actors. Amy Adams was able to chat with Bev Vance. Glenn Close had the more delicate task, Mamaw having been deceased for many years. She had access to family albums and films, to every recording available. The star of Dangerous Liaisons asked them about the slightest tick of their grandmother, a true force of nature. How did she sit? How was she holding her cigarette? How was she limping?
On the set for the Vances, the shock was total. They had the impression of seeing their missing grandmother again. The completely ugly Glenn Close metamorphosis is so compelling that she remains, despite the drama’s icy reception in pole position to clinch its eighth Oscar nomination.
The Oscar for best film 2019, the equally sentimental Green Book on the roads of the South which evoked Segregation showed that the Academy sometimes disregarded political readings of feature films in the running, unlike critics and social networks.