review//I SAW THE LIGHT

Grade: C

I SAW THE LIGHT
Directed by Marc Abraham
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, David Krumholtz

The musical biopic has been spun through Hollywood enough to elicit its own genre in a video store, if video stores were still a thing. Sometimes a musical biopic eludes stereotype and provides something unique, like I'm Not There, a unique take on the style and life of Bob Dylan. With Marc Abraham's I Saw the Light, a look at the troubles of famed country crooner Hank Williams, familiar territory is tread with mostly respect and unbeatable performances.

Instead of giving the iconic country-western singer an origin film, I Saw the Light picks up in the midst of Hank's rise to songwriting fame. Specifically with the marriage of Hank to Audrey Williams (Elizabeth Olsen), the film quickly touches on the artist's troubles with alcoholism and disloyalty. While a somewhat loved, but troubled, past precedes him, Hank sums up each and every particle of an artist using his life experience to his advantage. With love comes songs like "Hey, Good Lookin'" and with pain comes songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The ultimate demise of Hank Williams isn't in his lovelorn actions that constantly find him getting into trouble, it's his unwavering abandonment of himself, never realizing that he is his own worst enemy.

Tom Hiddleston, the surprisingly English actor given the chance to bring Hank to life, melts into the film character of Hank Williams completely. Without ever feeling like a caricature, Hiddleston masters the country swagger and mostly captures the voice of the country music icon. In the long list of movies set to allow its star to move onto the next level of Hollywood career status, I Saw the Light is a perfect entry in regards to Hiddleston. Olsen equally shines, giving a similar supporting turn as Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. In fact, both films prove that sometimes the most independent of men actually have an even stronger, more independent women close to their side.

The film serves as the entry point into a dark and twisted life, but fails to make sense of it all. Full of brilliant performances by its entire cast, including supporting turns by Cherry Jones, David Krumholtz, and Maddie Hasson, just to name a few, I Saw the Light becomes an unfortunate over-ambitious tribute to a much-beloved artist.

Feeling overlong and featuring a choppy structure, I Saw the Light can't quite muster enough masterfulness, though it tries its hardest. Given the incredible performances, perhaps with a different vision, the film would be called a masterpiece, instead of an overgrown fluff piece of musical biopic stereotype.

If there's any saving grace here, it's the unwavering soul behind the music and the beautifully respectful performances of those involved.

Rated: R
Runtime: 2h 3min  

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