Telling a story about someone’s life can be a difficult mountain to climb. There’s securing the rights to said person’s story in order for you to have the truth, because that’s always good. Doing one of these films can also get you noticed at award time, something about an actor becoming someone of interest that gets people excited. The latest person chosen to have their life story told is Hank Williams, in “I Saw the Light” we get to see a country star that died way too young.
Williams (Tom Hiddleston) was born in Alabama, but this is not one of those cradle to death biographies. Instead the story picks up when Williams is still playing a local radio show and at venues around his hometown. While doing this he marries Audrey Mae (Elizabeth Olsen), who believes she is also a singer, though not everyone agrees with her. Williams on the other hand has what it takes, the voice, the writing, and the looks. For him, he has one goal, and that is to play the Grand Ole Opry, something he even tries to do on his own. Williams may have been blessed with talent, but he was also cursed, with an addiction to Alcohol and drugs. Williams hits the top of the charts often, but at the bottom of life, as he passes away at the age of twenty-eight.
This is a story that should be told, but this one makes a few mistakes that don’t do Williams justice. The narrative writer and director Marc Abraham choices don’t always work. He uses a black and white interview of Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford), who was Williams’s manager, to tell the breaks in the story, and it just slows things down. What does work, and very well I will say is Hiddleston’s performance as Williams, as he disappears into the role. Hiddleston does everything right, including performing all the music for the movie. This film is not a greatest hits compilation of Williams’s music, but instead a brief view into the life of the man behind the music, well for at least six years of his life. While the performance is top notch, the film can’t live up to it and ends up being just average. I have never sat down and really listened to Hank Williams, but I know what a towering figure he was, as was his music. The film was adapted from Colin Escott’s “Hank Williams: The Biography” and I do like that they took a part of his life instead of trying to tell the whole thing. Overall though the hiccups in “I Saw the Light” don’t give the movie Hiddleston deserves.