The movie, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams, is an adaptation of the 2016 memoir of the same name by J.D. Vance about Appalachian life and the strife his family felt when confronted with things like addiction, the social problems present in their hometown and the poverty cycle that keeps them going.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the film has been criticized in many reviews for taking an apolitical approach to the story and carefully removing elements that tackled the opioid crisis and a system that’s seemingly designed to keep people like Vance’s family poor. As a result, critics blamed Howard for only portraying a rich person's idea of a poor family without the context of the social and political issues that surround them.
The acclaimed director appeared alongside Vance for an interview with “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday where he was asked directly about the criticism facing the movie. He noted that he believes people, especially those who were enamored with the book when it came out at a turbulent political time in 2016, may have been expecting a more politically driven plot.
“Critics have a job, which is to see something and run it through their lens and talk about it. So, I can’t argue with it,” he explained. “I do feel like they're looking at political thematics that they may or may not disagree with that, honestly, are not really reflected or are not front and center in this story."
He went on to note that he never set out to make a political story but rather an adaptation of the very relatable family struggle he saw in the book.
"What I saw was a family drama that could be very relatable. Yes, culturally specific, and if you're fascinated by that, I hope you find it interesting,” he added. “If you're from the region, I hope you find it authentic because certainly that was our aim and that was our effort. But I felt that it was a bridge to understanding that we're more alike than we are different."
Vance, meanwhile, noted that, regardless of politics, the story still carries as much cultural relevance as it did when it first came out.
"I think certainly the response to the movie and so many emails and messages that I've gotten since the movie's come out suggests it still resonates," he explained. "I think a lot of people attach specific political significance, but these problems of family struggle, of addiction and resilience, I really do think are timeless because we still have an addiction problem in this country just like we did in 2016, so I think for a lot of the audience, it does still resonate."