Fans of the Marvel comic book movies have gotten a grasp of what Tom Hiddleston can do with an out-of-this-world fictional character courtesy of the masterful creation known as Loki.
It’s of little surprise that this British actor possesses the ability to do the same in a biopic. Hiddleston, to be blunt, offers the best reason for going to see the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light, which opens on area screens and across the nation Friday (April 1).
To say Hiddleston inhabits the role would be a disservice. With the material he’s given he turns himself into the embodiment of a country music legend and certified genius, who crammed a legendary career into approximately 10 years before dying at the age of 29 just before he was supposed to play a concert in Canton, Ohio.
The legacy is deep and the list of accolades for Williams impressive – including the fact the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him as an early influence in 1987. Unfortunately, in the film written and directed by Marc Abraham, the audience isn’t given an idea of his significance and that includes every element of his life.
Abraham sketches rather than paints a full picture of who Williams is. The character trait that he develops fully: Williams alcoholism. That much is certain. He day drinks. He night drinks. He’s rarely without alcohol nearby in the film.
The broader question: why?
Does he drink because he has a mother who may or may not be overbearing and a first wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) who are constantly at one another and pulling at him like a Stretch Armstrong doll?
Is it because he has to deal with Audrey who is the epitome of insecurity with good cause? Or are there other demons driving this singer who was actually an artist – one just as tortured as any number of geniuses in any artistic realm who’s died far too soon? Does that play out in his music? In most cases the audience doesn’t know.
Given the success, he possessed a myriad of reasons to live, to thrive and be happy. Hiddleston brings out the suffering. It’s to his credit that he does so without the audience seeing the rationale behind it.
Olsen’s Audrey isn’t developed enough to make anyone understand whether she’s a shrew or a woman wronged or both. Their relationship is complicated and we do not see that portrayed adequately on the screen.
That’s a strange criticism given the film’s languid pacing that should lend itself to in-depth storytelling. Where Abraham succeeds is in the film’s overall look and giving Hiddleston the opportunity to shine.
It’s a pity many could leave the theater feeling as if they didn’t learn much from I Saw the Light.
Movie: I Saw the Light
Director: Marc Abraham
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Rated: R for some language and brief sexuality/nudity
Running time: 123 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com