THE STORY – Singer and songwriter Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) rises to fame in the 1940s, but alcohol abuse and infidelity take a toll on his career and marriage to fellow musician Audrey Mae Williams (Elizabeth Olsen).
THE CAST – Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson & Wrenn Schmidt
THE TEAM – Marc Abraham (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 123 Minutes
By Matt N.
Heaven help me if I see a more boring film this year than “I Saw The Light.” It’s a collection of scenes that recount the popular and tumultuous years of the musical icon, Hank Williams. A figure this popular and legendary in the annals of music deserves better than the typical “Greatest Hits” collection we are given here. It’s precisely the kind of lazy filmmaking that a satirical film such as “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” condemned. But alas, we are given this unfocused film which moves at a sluggish pace and is heading towards the light (Aka. The end credits).
”I Saw The Light” takes place in Southern America during the 1940’s. Country western singer Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) has just married fellow singer (Although, not nearly as talented) Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen). Along the way, Hank drinks profusely as he fights with Audrey, yet his star continues to rise in the world of country music. Releasing hits such as “Love Sick Blues” and “Move It On Over” Hank climbs up the charts even though his personal life crumbles around him.
Hank Williams is played with southern charm and charisma by British actor Tom Hiddleston, and while he is the best part of what is a dull formulaic film, it’s simply not enough to give Hank Williams the film he deserves. The film explore’s his abuse of alcohol, which is what eventually led to his untimely death, and it is in there that we could have gotten a more engaging film akin to something such as “Leaving Las Vegas.” Instead, we have to suffer through every personal moment in Hank William’s marriage to Audrey. Elizabeth Olsen is (Like Hiddleston) trying to give the role her all, but she too is held down by a paint by the numbers screenplay with direction from Marc Abraham that fails to ignite any excitement from its collection of scenes that lack any real focus. The only redeemable quality (Other than the efforts from the cast) is the cinematography from Dante Spinotti which opens the film with a striking shot showing Hank Williams basked in a glowing spotlight and continues to present a series of good looking shots throughout the rest of the film.
At one point in the film, Hanks’s bandmates tell him there’s “No need to worry Hank. Isn’t all this s**t simple?” And that’s a perfect summary of this film. It’s neither challenging nor interested in giving a figure such as Hank Williams the biopic he deserves. It’s a simple film that due to its simplicity fails to connect with the viewer on an emotional or intellectual level. It also really doesn’t help that if your ear for southern accents is lacking, you’ll find 90% of the dialogue in this film hard to understand.
There’s a moment in the film where Hank Williams says “Boy, I’m a professional at making a mess of things.” He may as well be speaking on behalf of the film as it’s a mess of narrative coherence, time jumps to pivotal moments in Hank William’s life that have little to no resonance and fails to celebrate the life of one of music’s greats. Instead, the film takes its time in showing what a flawed man he was without giving us a fully fleshed out character that we can identify and relate to. It’s the ultimate failure of the film, and for that, there is no redemption for such a promising individual to base a film off of.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The charming and charismatic performances by Tom Hiddleston & Elizabeth Olsen. Dante Spinotti’s glowing cinematography.
THE BAD – No narrative cohesion. Absolutely lifeless and boring for a majority of the running time due to a bland screenplay with even worse direction from Abraham.
THE OSCARS – None
THE FINAL SCORE – 2/10