Played by the numbers
I SAW THE LIGHT
Directed by Marc Abraham. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz, Cherry Jones. 15A cert, general release, 123 min
Is there a bloke at the wrong end of Sunset Blvd selling generic music-biopic templates from the back of his sedan?
You know how these go. Chuck Biopic has early, modest success and shacks up with his teenage sweetheart, Sally Underwritten. While out on the road, he romances various “loose women” and develops an addiction to pills-coke-smack. This causes Sally to throw milk jugs at his head and ultimately leads to a separation that never fully takes. Then he dies young.
One need only fill in the gaps with the relevant country songs, rap numbers or soul belters and sit back in anticipation of inevitable Oscars.
If they were to give out awards for the most by-the-numbers release of the year (some may facetiously argue that the Academy does just that), then this study of Hank Williams would take some beating. Miles Ahead, the recent Miles Davis film, isn’t great, but at least Don Cheadle made a bloody effort.
The only attempt at innovation here is the sporadic inclusion of monochrome talking heads from key figures in Williams’s life. There is no other suggestion that we are looking at a mock documentary. Were they left over from an earlier, marginally more interesting pass at the same material?
The film would actually be more entertaining if Tom Hiddleston were a little less effective in the lead role. The teeth aren’t nearly irregular enough, but otherwise the Englishman does a very serviceable impression of country’s holy rebel. If he were terrible we might, at least, have something to laugh at.
We hear nothing about the origins of Williams’s sound. We get no sense that the singer (who, eerily, died on new year’s day of the year Sam Phillips discovered Elvis) was a key harbinger of the new music to come. I Saw the Light is just a dull plod through the stations of the biopic cross. If you miss this one, there will be another along in a moment.
Starring Sally Modest and Chuck Biopic, err... Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston