• by Wes Singleton

Review: I Saw the Light, C

Rated R, 123 minutes

The new film "I Saw the Light," the Hank Williams biography film, lacks the heart and soul of its legendary musical subject. It's finely cast and acted, but the sluggish storytelling lacks dramatic shape and emotional connection. Singer and songwriter Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) rises to fame in the 1940s, but alcohol abuse and infidelity take a toll on his career and marriage to fellow musician Audrey Mae Williams (Elizabeth Olsen). Directed and written by Marc Abraham, producer of such films as "RoboCop" and "Children of Men," the overlong, uneven bio "I Saw the Light" doesn't do the Williams legacy justice and skims the surface of his life, spending far too much time on his personal relationships and less on the music that made him world famous. "Light" isn't without its merits though, given that British actor Hiddleston, best known to audiences as Loki in Marvel films "The Avengers" and "Thor," is superb as Williams, capturing his look and sound - that soulful yodel - and rising above the script's unfocused narrative, namely spending far too much time on his first marriage to Audrey (Olsen, miscast here), and less on the inspiration for his music. A few other strong supporting characters appear, including his opinionated mother Lillie (the always fabulous character actress Cherry Jones) and Williams' equally legendary producer Fred Rose, played with earnestness by "The West Wing's" Bradley Whitford. Whitford's narration in black-and-white doesn't help the film much, and the movie drifts without providing many powerful moments, instead of some awkward ones that don't really connect well to Williams the musician, such as a meeting with movie producer Dore Schary or a New York journalist, and it seems to end abruptly with his death. "I Saw the Light" doesn't fully explore the complex character that was Williams and all his problems, but thankfully we're treated to a few of his classic tunes, including "Cold, Cold Heart," "Lovesick Blues," "Hey Good Lookin'," and in one of the film's more compelling moments, a wistfully sad version by Hiddleston of "Your Cheatin' Heart." Williams was sure a troubled soul and a fantastic artist, but we barely see that in the well-acted but downbeat and bland "I Saw the Light," worth seeing only for Hiddleston's memorable turn as Williams.

#isawthelight #hankwilliams #tomhiddleston