Movie Review: Sony Pictures Classics' I SAW THE LIGHT

Written and Directed by: Marc Abraham
Based on the book, Hank Williams: The Biography, By Colin Escott with George Merritt and William Macewen
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson, Wren Schmidt
Release date: April 1, 2016
Runtime: 123 min
I SAW THE LIGHT tells the story of Hank Williams, the iconic, influential country singer and songwriter of the 1940’s and early 50’s whose meteoric rise and fall, including his death at age 29, has become part of American folklore. Writer-director Marc Abraham has created a compelling, historically accurate narrative of Hank’s career that examines his tormented creative genius and the turbulent domestic life that inspired him to write some of his best-known songs. By literally going back in time, you see Hank as he was, living his life on his terms, battling his demons and ultimately creating music for the ages.

I wanted to like this week’s I Saw the Light, the biopic about the life and career of country music great Hank Williams.  The film has just about everything I look for in a good evening out.  It presented an interesting subject, Hank Williams.  It starred a great cast, including Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen.  I was even going to get to listen to some of Hank Williams’ hits.  As much as I wanted to enjoy this experience, it wasn’t quite what I expected. 

I knew only a brief history of Hank Williams.  I expected there to be some alcohol, some pills and some womanizing.  I didn’t expect it to be all alcohol, all pills and all womanizing.  My biggest issue with I Saw the Light was the plot. I needed more than self-destruction.  The self-destruction was continuous and really off-putting.  I would not have minded some self-destructive behavior, but there was no explanation, motive or plot development to go along with the self-destructive behavior.  I mean Hank Williams had over 30 hits in his short life. Williams was doing things other than alcohol, pills and womanizing. Unfortunately, the film doesn't show it. 

I actually liked the cast. I wasn't sure that Tom Hiddleston could play the part of William Hanks. He did beautifully. The talk, the demeanor, the look in Williams' signature hat all worked well. Olsen also impressed me in her role as Audrey Sheppard, Williams' first wife. Olsen played the role with just the right blend of cunning and coy. I liked her character as much as I hated her character. That kind of balance takes talent. 

I also enjoyed the music. I appreciate listening to movie music because the surround sound is excellent in theaters. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough of the music for a musician as prolific as Williams.  In order to get a real feel for Williams' talent, the audience would have to sit through the credits.

I suggest waiting to see I Saw the Light until it hits home digital or video format. There were some aspects of the film that I enjoyed, and the cast was excellent, but the plot and script disappointed. If you still want to catch I Saw the Light in theaters, it's open now. 

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