NON HORROR REVIEW- There are hundreds of films that have been successfully made using a captivating story of one man/woman, however it is a rare occurrence that one man/woman can make a film successfully captivating.
In the recent Hank Williams bio-pic, directed by Marc Abraham, who only has one prior directorial credit for ‘Flash Of Genius,’ things immediately seem evident that the weight of the film lies solely on the shoulders of the talented Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Avengers, Crimson Peak). Although he never really fumbles in his character portrayal, we never really get a great movie, nor do we get a comprehensive look into the life of the man who made such an incredible impact on American music in such a short time period.
With that being said, Williams’ professional music career lasted less than a decade, so the historical material needed to produce a film wasn’t in massive abundance, meaning the production should have been targeted on the establishment of Williams character with a particular focus on the inspiration he used for his authentic songwriting and particularly left of center at the time sound in music.
What we get instead is a hodgepodge of vaguely motivated maneuvers from the character of Williams and a few piss-poor bread crumbs that Abraham expects the crowd to either understand or know enough about the real life Hank Williams to follow what’s going on. This is the biggest fail of the two hour and three minute film, since the emotional levels of the audience never reach anything more than what is on the surface, which is the handful of visually effectively angled performances highlighted by Hank’s first Grand Ole Opry performance and a couple of personal highlights/downfalls for Williams like the birth of his son and his medical diagnosis.
Essentially we get a tidbit of dialogue in between Hiddleston and his wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) that mentions that Hank’s back went out. At first, you might think it’s a joke due to the sensual scene, but later in the story…BOOM! we get a “cure me or kill me” doctor/patient conversation with Hank exclaiming that he can’t take it anymore.
Nothing aside from the aforementioned brief dialogue and what seemed to be minor hunting fall readies the audience for that type of statement that should be filled with emotional immobility, but instead we feel little to no sympathy because of no proper build up. The same applies to all of Hank’s problems, especially the “women and whisky” aspects. We see Hank abruptly dropped into a bed to apparently detox, as viewers begin to feel all too familiar remnants of the successful Johnny Cash bio-pic,’Walk The Line’ that become sprinkled into ‘I Saw The Light’ more and more with each sequence.
The biggest letdown for the music aficionado would be the way Abraham’s script and directing showed Hank’s writing process, or the lack thereof. Aside from an intrusive interview and minuscule scene on the steps of his mother’s house, we get no more insight on the writing of these powerful lyrics. Instead, we get several “I got something for ya” conversations between Williams and publishing executive, Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford) that is supposed to strike our soul with all the emotions Hank is giving us, but it really doesn’t.
To make matters worse, a feeling of border-line degradation of these classically beautiful songs lurks in the shadows due to the lack of elegant execution . I am very curious to hear criticism of ‘I Saw The Light’ from his surviving family, in particular “Bocephus” and I’m anxious to talk to some true Hank Williams fans after they check out the film, which won’t be for some time due to it’s limited release.
What they will see is Hiddleston’s immaculate way of transforming himself into the singer the best way that he can, without a doubt giving his all to the character of Hank Williams given the thoughtless boundaries that are placed there by the clueless production team. His only fault was getting mixed up in a movie with such poor directing, editing and scripting that could have been a heavy weight film, similar to ‘Walk The Line,’ but just can’t live up to the task.
If the entire script wasn’t bad enough, the final sequences are incredibly foreseen and painfully anti-climactic, to the point that a previous scene showing Williams’ apology for missing a show was more heartfelt and nicely done than what we get at the end, and that was the foundation of the namesake of the film. Shame on Abraham for everything about this film aside from casting Hiddleston and his performance scenes, which is ultimately all the movie is worth, “Loki” performing great songs with great angles in wonderfully nostalgic settings while being married to the “Scarlet Witch.”