REVIEW: I Saw the Light

1 04 2016

I Saw the LightIf the biopic of Hank Williams is to be believed, he saw the light when his first-born child entered the world. (We know this, of course, because he sang it.) Around this time in the film, I found myself wishing I saw a different kind of light – the one at the end of the tunnel, if that tunnel were the interminable film “I Saw the Light.”

Marc Abraham begins the film with a long take that circles around Tom Hiddleston as he introduces us to his take on Williams through music: an a capella rendition of “Cold, Cold Heart.” (Conspicuously, his voice lacks that deep Southern drawl that so defines the Williams sound.) He rest firmly in the spotlight, though the camera angle obscures his face until the very end of the song. Ironically, the introduction provides a perfect encapsulation of the film’s flaws.

“I Saw the Light” places its subject front and center, but Abraham never really finds a satisfying angle through which to analyze him. As a performer, his chief adversity is … convincing people to get over the fact that he holds onto notes for too long. As a person, he is guilty of … philandering, like far too many musicians depicted on screen. At one point, seemingly out of nowhere, it is revealed that Williams struggles with alcoholism to a point of self-endangerment. One aspect, isolated and explored with gusto, might have helped the film gain some footing. Without such focus, it flounders.

Often times, biopics lacking a strong directorial hand or a definitive angle can find salvation in a strong lead performance. Yet Hiddleston, charming as he can be, just never quite gets comfortable as Hank Williams. The film clearly values veracity as it awkwardly intersperses documentary-style interviews with Williams’ manager (Bradley Whitford), but the central performance never quite registers as an adequate facsimile for the real thing. C2stars



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