All musical biopics are roughly the same: they attempt to paint a portrait of a tortured genius who either has problems with past demons, alcohol, drugs, women, violence (or a deadly combination of all of the above), which leads to a tragic, untimely demise. Even those unfamiliar with musician Hank Williams will probably know what to expect in “I Saw the Light,” a very simplistic and sparse retelling of the life of the country crooner. The main problem with the film is that main subject’s life was, well, pretty boring.
Unexpectedly strong performances from the stellar cast (including Tom Hiddleston as Williams, Elizabeth Olsen as his first wife Audrey, Bradley Whitford as the legendary Fred Rose, Cherry Jones as his protective yet overbearing mother Lillie, and an all too short cameo from David Krumholtz as a newspaper reporter), keep the film afloat. Who knew Hiddleston could sing and play guitar? He more than simply pulls it off here: he is completely believable in all respects, right down to the cowboy strut and the flawless Southern accent (he even pronounces ‘pecan’ in the correct way)!
Not only is this film well acted, I thought it was incredibly well directed by Marc Abraham. The film looks and feels gorgeous, full of creative shots and staging. Abraham successfully constructs a style that never becomes tiresome or stale (how many other biopics can you say that about)? The scenes are creatively staged in a way to make the audience feel like they are right there in the heart of the action, watching music history being made. It’s one of the best directed biopics I’ve ever seen, which makes it even more of a shame that no big awards are likely in this film’s future.
As someone who loves all genres of music (yes, even classic country), I was hoping for more from this film. It’s good but it could’ve been so much better. Instead of briefly presenting numerous snapshot moments in Hank’s life, I would’ve rather seen a more focused storyline. This overly long movie meanders all over the place, with scene after scene of hard drinkin’, heartache cryin’, hollerin’ and fightin’, and let’s not forget the holy grail in the life of a country music icon: lots and lots of cheatin’.
Thankfully there are musical interludes thrown in for good measure (once Williams gets to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, the movie picks up steam — only to quickly lose all the momentum it gained). The final moments of Williams’ life are beautifully handled, as is the reaction to his tragic death at the age of 29.
The film gets you into the heart of the characters, but the characters are just too dull to make any lasting impact.
Matt was unavailable for review.