By Melissa Chapman, Cataloging Supervisor
When will they make a movie about a musician who didn’t have to suffer agony and ecstasy to make it to the top? Hank Williams ranks near the top on the doomed crooners list. One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, he died in 1953 at 29 years old, succumbing to a heart worn out by booze, drugs, love and a bad back. The film “I Saw the Light” is the story of Hank Williams, his rise to the top as well as his downward spiral that led to his untimely death in the back of a Cadillac.
The film follows Hank from his hasty marriage, to his successful rise, through his spiteful partings and the alcoholism that constantly plagued him. His problems with addiction and alcoholism were due in part to his suffering from spina bifida, a painful condition that worsened as he grew older. The film allows us to see why he was not always a likeable person as well as the constant physical pain he endured throughout his life.
The film features stellar performances by Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen. Hiddleston, who plays Williams, nails his thick southern accent and delivers a compelling performance that hints at the darkness under the surface, as well as brilliantly capturing Williams’ voice and singing style in several enjoyable performance sequences, all of which were filmed live. Olsen is equally good as Audrey, particularly in the early sequences where her insistence on singing (badly) with Hank causes friction in their relationship.
I feel the film was snubbed and dismissed by the critics. It is an unvarnished, yet fascinating journey of Hank Williams, and resonates with how remarkable his talents were in an era before social media. The film gives a focus to the pain behind the passion and the flaws that we as humans, all share. All in all, Hank Williams sold over 11 million records and had 36 hits in his short, troubled life and that alone makes him captivating.
If you like a good music biopic then I suggest “Love and Mercy” (Beach Boys Brian Wilson), “Walk the Line” (Johnny Cash),” Coal Miner’s Daughter” (Loretta Lynn), “The Buddy Holly Story”, “Ray” (Ray Charles), “Great Balls of Fire” (Jerry Lee Lewis),and “Nowhere Boy” (John Lennon). Come in to the Warsaw Community Public Library, find a film and make it a movie night!