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‘I Saw The Light’ And It Was Pretty Dull (Movie Review)

i saw the light thumbA biopic like I Saw the Light feels like the result of a film that relies on a well-cast lead performance to make up for everything it lacks. With this film specifically, there is a lot that it lacks due to its unfocused nature and a misunderstanding of what it means to display the mystique of it subject. Tom Hiddleston puts his all into the role of Hank Williams, but this film has very little to offer.

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Following a slowly performed ditty that represents one of the few songs we hear in a film that should be bursting with tracks, I Saw the Light presents us with some requisite elements. We get to see a younger Hank ready to marry his first wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), and come to understand he is trying to work his way up the country music ladder. It is soon understood that Hank is a complicated man dealing with pain, addiction and an appetite for other excesses.

Hank Williams is held up as a country music legend, but as is the case with many of these stars, his personal life was a mess. It can make for a good film in the right hands, as Hank was clearly not the best guy but his complicated life allows for the possibility of an interesting study. Unfortunately, writer/director Marc Abraham does not seem have a grip on how to make this a coherent and compelling story.

Even the most average of music biopics do a good job of laying out a proper series of events displaying the key moments in the lives of their lead characters. I Saw the Light constantly undercuts itself by jumping to different moments (thankfully in a linear order) that never receive much context. We have a basic idea of what Hank wants, which is to be a part of the Grand Ole Opry, but it is honestly confusing to see how the steps play out in him getting there and then continuing to be a part of it.

This is a very muddled movie as far as motivations go, which really does play into why a random approach to time jumps feels so severe. We get that Hank is good in the country music scene, but we have little to attach ourselves to as far as why he writes the songs he writes, why it is that he acts a certain way or what it is that would actually make him happy.

None of this is the fault of Hiddleston, who works hard with what he is given. We see the two sides of Hank and Hiddleston’s terrific work is strong enough to make us sure to not let Hank off the hook for being a gifted musician, when he treats others so poorly. Sadly, none of the other characters ever really register as more than one-dimensional pieces in the puzzle that is this film.

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This unfortunately applies to Olsen, who should be every bit as compelling as Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter was in Walk the Line. Instead, we get to see the same thing between Audrey and Hank over and over – squabbling. It happens a lot, because Hank is a womanizer, which is about as deep as the film wants to take it. It likely has to do with Hank letting the fame get to him, but Abraham fails to really dive into what makes Hank tick. We never get to see what’s under Hank’s hat, which incidentally becomes the topic of discussion in another scene involving Hank possibly becoming a movie star that is never even resolved.

Hopefully a major takeaway for Hiddleston will be an accent and some musical skills he can put to use in a better movie down the road. I Saw the Light gets some points for looking decent enough as a period drama, even while Abraham adds little in the way of inspired direction, but there is really little else to praise. Casting the perfect Hank Williams was key, but the life of this man barely registers in this cinematic effort.

i saw the light poster

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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