Prior to the screening, Director Marc Abraham staggered onto the stage rather suavely and proceeded to lecture the audience on the merits of Hank Williams and the influence he had on numerous legendary acts such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and even The Beatles…and rightfully so. Seeing as I held little-to-no knowledge about Hank at the time, Abraham’s speech was a welcomed synopsis of the singer/songwriter’s life. As Marc concluded his fact-heavy rambling, Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen strutted to the stage and I was awash in wonderment. That said, Abraham’s intention, unquestionably to infect the audience with Williams-fever, had worked against his picture by the end of the screening.
While there's no doubt that 'I Saw the Light' radiates with Hank's inescapable charm and hypnotic country-western hits, thanks in large part to the resplendent work of Tom Hiddleston. Marc Abraham's 'I Saw the Light' is largely too contrived and ultimately is irreversibly muddled by the short, whimsical, fool-hearted nature of the timeless, mythical, incomparable Hank Williams.
With an opening sequence that desperately tries to resemble the Coens' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (to a certain aesthetic degree), Abraham's "borrowed" technique works (relatively) to the same affect. The smokey, shady pub silenced by the surprisingly strong voice of Tom Hiddleston. Tragically, after this opener, it's all down hill.
Intentional or not, we are certainly sucked into the hectic, almost indecipherable life of Hank Williams. Unfortunately, while we wander lost, confused, and overwhelmed by Abraham's unstable, all-too-often incoherent biopic. The only comfort and reward to this unsatisfactory journey is Hiddleston's soothing, powerful, seductive vocal performances. While it's clear that Hiddleston did his best to prepare for the role, not only vocally but visually and emotionally as well, his investment is left unreciprocated by Abraham's weak direction and a script that will lull you into a state of teetering consciousness.
Apart from Hiddleston's respectable performance, which is most importantly watchable in a film that doesn't do a heck of a whole lot to draw the viewers eyes to the screen to begin with. Abraham’s disappointing biopic is an all-too-familiar failure. Flailing sporadically, inhaling with brief moments of intrigue and emotion, followed by long periods of exhaled nothingness.
Of course, it doesn't help that Hank Williams led the cliche-driven life of a troubled musician. Regardless, I find Abraham’s inability to conceive something of value from such a talented, influential, emotionally-exuberant man, difficult to swallow.
There’s only one reason to watch Marc Abraham’s sorry excuse for an homage to Hank Williams, and it’s Tom Hiddleston’s sparkling vocal performances.