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I SAW THE LIGHT (USA 2015) **
Directed by Marc Abraham
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Maddie Hasson
Review by Gilbert Seah
The biopic of hank Williams I SAW THE LIGHT begins with Williams saying that he is impervious of what people think and that he does what he likes. The first scene then shows Williams sucking up to his marriage judge on how he loves his newly bride when the judge tells Williams how he gets up early and la-de-da-de-dah. The conflict of what is perceived and what is revealed on screen is the start of the problem of the film. The script says one thing and the film says another.
Running at over two hours, the film shows more of the bad and uncontrollable character of Hank Williams than his genius. His hard drinking, his disregard for tolerance of his loving wife overshadows his genius and talent. And it is this genius ad talent that is what audiences who come to see this film want to see.
Hank Williams had a short life. He died at the young age of 29 of heart failure due as the film informs to his hard drinking. The film shows and emphasizes much of the drinking with Williams always holding a bottle of beer, particularly in the early hours of the morning. He does not say much, but downs his beer.
Though his life was short, the film dos not reveal much of the singer’s musical background or work. The film appears more determined to show his personal life. His song writing, rehearsing and performances take second fiddle to his problems with his marriage and drinking. The film traces the difficulty of Williams getting into the grand old Opry, which is an important part in the singer’s life.
The film spend some time with interviews of Williams’ publisher Fred Rose (played by Bradley Whitford) though not much information is disseminated during these segments, that are shot in black and white.
Director Marc Abraham has made better films like the unforgettable CHILDREN OF Men and the remake DAWN OF THE DEAD. He is clearly good at demonstrating drama and this is evident in I SAW THE LIGHT.
It is an odd choice to pick British actor Tim Hiddleston to play an American country singer. One can only imagine the hard work Hiddelston and to undergo to speak with a southern western accent less to imitate Williams’ mannerisms and behaviour.
It is rare that the film shows Williams and his wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) performing. The segment (at the film’ s start) shows the reason both are an item together and how they bond despite marital problems. Again, the fight that ensues is paid more importance than the band’s performance.
The western atmosphere of the film is effectively created as are the sets and performances. But the film is a tad boring and no one really wants to spend two hours learning of Williams faults.
The title ironically called I SAY THE LIGHT fails to reveal Williams’ work and genius. The film only takes off when his songs are played, particularly during the end credits.
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