Star Struck

I Saw The Light

Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson, Wrenn Schmidt, David Krumholtz, Casey Bond and Fred Parker, Jr.
Director/Scriptwriter: Marc Abraham
Composer: Aaron Zigman
Cinematography: Dante Spinotti
Sony Classic
Rating: R for themed material and language
Running Length: 123 minutes

This film was screened for film critics almost six months ago. It was supposed to have been released with the holiday films of 2015, but Hollywood decided to hold it back and give the movie a better chance of recognition in 2016. Tom Hiddleston (“Loki” in the “Thor” films), a British actor, takes on the role of the late country western singer, Hank (Hiram) Williams (1924-1953) . Hiddleston does a wonderful job, both physically (Williams was a thin man) and musically, as it turns out, Hiddleston is a good singer and guitar player, and does his own vocals and guitar work here. The transformation is made. This is the story of a man with talent, who was determined to make it in the country music world, aimed for the Grand Old Opry, and the collateral damage along the way (failed marriages) was the price to pay.

The movie begins with Williams alone on a stage, seated on a stool, accompanying himself on guitar with only a spotlight for company. He wears his trade mark white cowboy hat, half shading his eyes, and begins to sing. From then on, it is a roller coaster ride to and from fame. His mother, Lillie (Cherry Jones) was his staunch supporter throughout life. Williams not only became an alcoholic, but he suffered from spina bifida, a painful condition that worsened as he grew older. An early marriage to Audrey, his duet partner (Elizabeth Olsen), and the birth of a son, Hank, Jr. was troubled by his affairs. There was a porce and then marriage to Billie Jean (Maddie Hasson.)

“I Saw The Light” shows the beginning of his career at a radio station and live music, working with side men (“The Drifting Cowboys”), writing hit songs and hitting it big at the Opry, but always with alcohol and a reputation for not showing up for concerts. Tom Hiddleston hits the mark with his performance and music ability. You get to see what happens behind the scenes on live radio and when the “ON” light goes on, or the curtains open, you, the star, really are on---make it or break it. This is not a career for the meek..

The film depends on the main star’s performance to carry the story along, and Tom Hiddleston does just that. Hank Williams was not always a likable person, but you can see why and the physical pain he was in. His goal was to stand on the stage of the Grand Old Opry and when he did that, what next? This is something that performers don't always plan for---what do I do next?

Elizabeth Olsen’s Audrey is a woman with spirit of her own, but sometimes loses the cause. Cherry Jones as Hanks’ mother, Lillie, gives us a woman who wove herself around her son like cushion. I was pleasantly surprised at the acting and music in the film, but wondered by the lack of publicity for it. Elizabeth Olsen is carving a career for herself by carefully choosing roles and she does well here. For anyone who has been on the road with a band or choral group, the loneliness of it all can hit home. The upward spiral can turn into a downward spiral just as easily. All in all, Hank Williams, sold over 11 million records and had 36 hits in his short and troubled life.

Four Tocks

Copyright 2016 Marie Asner