I wanted to hash out some thoughts on I Saw the Light (2015), Marc Abraham’s little-seen and much derided film starring Tom Hiddleston as 1940s-50s country singer Hank Williams.
It’s not a great film – its narrative structure is somewhat nonexistent and some of the editing is downright confusing, temporally speaking (not sure how much time has gone by or where we are in the artist’s timeline). The film gives the impression that, despite Williams’s depth as a songwriter, the man himself isn’t very interesting. If you can’t pull off this basic tenet of the biopic, what are you left with?
And yet, I’ve watched this movie twice in two months, shortly after it became available on demand. I’m a Hank Williams fan, and recognize his importance in the popular music cannon, but part of me wonders why this film was made. And why Tom Hiddleston of all people? The lanky, sophisticated (and somewhat physically unremarkable) Brit who recently starred in Ben Wheatley’s vastly different High-Rise (2015). It might very well be the oddness of the whole thing that kept me watching.
I just couldn’t picture Hiddleston singing “Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” in any way that would do justice to Williams’s talent. It’s also strange because it seems like the people who would watch it – Hank Williams fans – would not know who Hiddleston was (the two groups seem incongruous). But maybe that was the point of such odd casting.
I’m more interested in Hiddleston’s performance of the songs – and the fact that he’s actually quite good. But it’s more his enthusiasm in the role, the sheer effort, that makes it so fun to watch.