It doesn’t look good on paper, but Tom Hiddleston aka Loki From The Avengers is actually quite good as a boozy freewheeling Hank Williams in I Saw The Light. Williams was quite possibly the most influential country singer-songwriter of all-time and Hiddleston, with his uncanny imitation of Williams, turns out a great performance. The music is predictably great, just watch Hiddleston sing the Williams classics like “You’re Cheatin’ Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “I Saw The Light” and dare to think otherwise about his uncanny ability to get under the skin of the famed country singer. The musical numbers were shot with a live backing band and live vocals from Hiddleston and are the highlight of this otherwise misbegotten film. In fact, everything else about the film seems to be dead on arrival. It could have used more tunes and less blues.
Indie queen Elizabeth Olsen is another bright spot as Audrey, Williams’ first wife, lacking in talent to actually sing, but still willing to build up a singing career in the shadow of her husband’s epic success with Country radio. Olsen, wide-eyed and as beautiful as ever on-screen, fills up every frame she`s in with the immaculate intensity of her best roles in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011). The same kind words can’t be said about writer-director Abraham’s screenplay, which is filled with bumps and bruises, from an overstuffed supporting cast filled with underwritten roles to the questionable decision of focusing a big chunk of its time on how Williams’ boozing led to him being late to many of his shows, in fact that seems to be the main conflict in the movie: How Williams was always not on time. To say that this main conflict doesn’t build up much tension on a scene by scene basis would be an understatement.
Abraham tries to concoct an old fashioned story about the country singer, who died at the age of 29 due to heavy alcoholism, but instead of focusing on the creation of the legendary music Williams created Abraham decides to focus much of his time on the boozy, womanizing side. It worked in musical bio-pics such as Ray and I Walk The Line, but those films had more competent directors at the helm and had a clear-eyed focus on why the music was so important in the first place In fact, Abraham barely gives a shout out to Williams’ greatest song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which isn’t just heard or mentioned until the final credits.