Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Strong, solid performances by Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen aren't quite enough to pull I Saw the Light (opening today) from the shadows of mediocrity.
Hiddleston plays the iconic country superstar Hank Williams, one of the most successful singers in American history. Tragically and like many stars who simply burned too bright, Williams died in 1953, only a few years after making it big with hits like "Lovesick Blues," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." This movie picks up shortly before he struck the big- time, chronicling his romance with wife Audrey Sheppard (Elizabeth Olsen), and his battles with alcoholism back problems and drug abuse that eventually led to his untimely demise.
A big critique that faces many bio-pics is the complaint that we don't really get to know the subject more than just what's on the surface. Unfortunately, this is true for Hank Williams in I Saw the Light. The problem may be that he was a complicated soul and there are some conflicting thoughts as to just how "good" of a man he really was off stage. The closest we get to cracking the surface comes during a testy scene over half-way through the film, when Hank is interviewed by a news reporter. Trying to confirm the rumors that Williams is a known drunk, Hank gets upset and storms off. Prior to this, he talked about the "realness" and authenticity of country music and how he feels his songs may be popular because "there is darkness within us all." The problem is, the movie shies away from ever shining any light into these dark areas. They are touched upon, but never delved into.
There are some colorful passages of dialogue but the overall script is just plain vanilla. Hiddleston and Olsen do what they can and they both are worth watching. Hiddleston, performing all of Hank's songs in the film himself, is much better as Hank when not singing. If there is anything that is clear after watching this movie, it's that there is, was and only ever will be one unrepeatable Hank Williams.
I Saw the Light isn't all bad, but it's not the deep-dive character study that Hank Williams deserves.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, Cherry Jones, David Krumholtz Written & Directed by Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius)
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