This movie had a great formula ripe for me to love, didn’t it? Marvel’s very own Tom Hiddleston (or as we all know as Loki from THOR and AVENGERS) as the country legend Hank Williams and co-starring another Marvel actor, Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch from AVENGERS: ULTRON). It’s no secret that Hiddleston is a decent singer, so it should come as no surprise that he’d eventually do something to showcase that and this movie seemed like a solid way to do it. Despite the fact that I may not be overly familiar with the Hank William’s work, I do rather like country music, so I went in to this movie with high hopes. So let’s kick this shindig off. This is my honest opinion of I SAW THE LIGHT.
Based on the biographical book Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt, and William MacEwen. Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) is an up and coming country star, struggling to get that star of his shining as well as keeping his family life with his first wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen). But as alcoholism becomes a recurring problem as well as a recurring spinal condition, as well as being an unfaithful jerk, Hank’s brief rise to fame eventually comes to an end upon his death at the age of twenty-nine years.
It’s got a really strong opening, but as soon as I was getting into that second half, the movie takes a hard nose-dive, ending with a corny splat.
Let me just go on record before I start ranting, Hiddleston is phenomenal and he has no problem making me believe that he’s Hank Williams. He’s a damn good singer and I do enjoy the music. For someone who was so over-the-top in his Marvel movies, he is surprisingly lower-key, giving way for powerfully subtle emotions. Olsen? She might be a scene stealer. She brings in such an honest performance that practically outshines Hiddleston, something I didn’t even think was possible. Her struggles, her pain, her anger, her hate, her love, it all comes off beautifully.
As previously, the beginning is amazing. The opening is basically just a dark room with a standard light shining down while Hank’s sitting on a stool singing away. It’s beautiful to look at. Of course, then we get to see Hiddleston and Olsen together and they are just magic together. I have no problem believing in their chemistry. I suppose the facts would speak for themselves if you Googled the man’s life, but I like how their marriage isn’t presented as whimsical and perfect until that one thing he does to ruin it. Or just as annoying, they don’t portray their relationship as one that’s ready to crumble from its very foundation. No, they show that they have disagreements and fights one day and then their fine the next; an imperfect, but functioning marriage.
Any time that Hiddleston is on stage singing, I won’t lie, I get the jitters. I like his voice, and despite what the movie says, I also liked Olsen’s voice too. Whether or not Audrey actually had a bad voice, I’m sure I don’t know, but I liked her… mostly (yeah, yeah, I know). There are scenes where I see that she isn’t amazing, but whether that’s through design or natural… talent, again, I wouldn’t know. Either way, I liked her enough too.
But as much as I want to go on and on about the performances as usual, this movie is not that good.
I accidentally caught a brief glimpse of a review about the movie and remembered reading: “unfocused.” Yeah, that sounds about right. How many problems do we need to cram into this movie? Hank Williams drank a lot, he had back problems, he was a skirt-chaser, he was an asshole, jesus, which problem are we supposed to be invested in? Even if all of these elements were crucial in understanding the man, it’s not handled very well. It feels more like a constant barrage to your emotional nads that carries no real weight.
And now it’s time to talk about that dreaded second half I alluded to at the beginning of this review. By this point, the story has repeated the same damn life events that we’ve seen. Hank loves Audrey. They get married with children. Hank fucks up by cheating or drinking. Hank and Audrey divorce. Rinse and repeat, just with a different broad. Interest in the plot quickly gets shot and I found myself drifting off to sleep with how much I stopped caring about Hank’s problems. This movie is two hours long, but in that last thirty minutes, it drags to the point where it feels like a three hour movie.
Also, some scenes felt extraordinarily out of place. In the of the worst bouts of Hank’s deteriorating health, he is forced to go on stage to perform, but instead of singing, he spouts a random story about… I have no idea what. Maybe it has some poetic significance, but I honestly couldn’t follow it and make any real sense of that scene.
And dear god, the last couple minutes are… unbearably hammy. So Hank’s on his way to perform in his next gig. However, the announcer at the Opry says that Hank died on his way there. At first, you get the expected reactions, gasping and a moment of silence. But then… this happens: the band starts singing “I Saw the Light,” barely a second after Hank’s announced death and even the crowd starts singing, getting into it by raising their hands in the air. It’s one of the sappiest endings I’ve ever seen for such a dramatic movie.
Overall, I can’t say that I hate the movie, but it’s such a shame to see a movie start off so incredibly beautiful and engaging, held up by unbelievable performances by Hiddleston and Olsen, but then derail like a mother fucker thanks to recycled plot-lines and . Any die hard fan of country music, and by extension Hank Williams, will probably swarm to see it and get their money’s worth. I saw it once, but I don’t think I could see it again beyond the first half.
My honest rating: 3/5