Sunday, July 3, 2016

Video review: "I Saw the Light"

“I Saw the Light” falls into that category of biopics that are dominated by a great performance, but the movie surrounding it falls a little short.

We’ve seen it before in films like “Ray,” “Walk the Line” or “Capote” -- stories about legendary artists who knew trouble and strife in their lives, along with glory and fame. The problem is that it’s hard to take the stray threads of a person’s life, the contradictions and randomness, and weave them into cohesive narrative.

That challenge even comes with someone like Hank Williams, who died a country music legend at age 29. Tom Hiddleston plays the honky-tonk king as a charming scamp who couldn’t resist the siren call of booze, women and worse. He ends up hurting everyone he loves, most especially himself.

Writer/director Marc Abraham plays it straight in his storytelling, charting Williams’ rise from local radio crooner to favorite son of the Grand Ole Opry. Elizabeth Olsen plays his bossy wife, Audrey, who wanted a singing career of her own and takes it out on Hank when this doesn’t pan out. He starts to dally around, she resents being penned up at home like his plaything, and the bitterness blooms.

Much has been made of Hiddleston, a Brit, playing such an iconic American figure. I for one don’t mind; he looks the part and occupies the role with assurance and a deep sense of tragedy. His singing is quite good, though not much of an impersonation of Williams’ signature twang and moan.

One misstep Abraham makes is using interviews from people who knew Williams to cover the boring exposition stuff. It distracts us from the main character’s journey, not to mention comes across as a lame “Behind the Music” stunt.

Still, “I Saw the Light” is a worthy if not terribly daring biopic. It shows us the troubled soul of Hank Williams, the smiling man who crooned about heartache and despair.

Video extras aren’t terribly extensive, but they are impactful. Abraham offers a feature-length commentary track – though, in a novel move, you have to download it from iTunes first. There are also deleted scenes and three featurettes: “Illuminating A Legend: Inside I Saw the Light,” “Talking Hank” and “A Night in Nashville: Premiere and Musical Performance by Tom Hiddleston.”



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