Thursday, 12 May 2016

REVIEW - I SAW THE LIGHT (MARC ABRAHAM)


Condensing any life, even one a mere 29 years long, into the duration of the average film biopic, is an unenviable task for any aspiring artist. The process of picking which pieces to include, and which many more to overlook, often yields tiresomely similar results from one film to the next, as filmmakers adhere to formula. Not so with I Saw the Light, which yet manages to feel as formulaic as the rest, despite writer-director Marc Abraham's best efforts to the contrary. Or are they his worst efforts? That process of picking which pieces of country music legend Hank Williams' short life with which to populate this portrait has gone horribly awry, and the film is draining and incoherent as a direct result. Abraham strives for artful obfuscation, and achieves it, only minus the artfulness - I Saw the Light is full of basic narrative errors, inexcusable gaps and context-free time shifts, that would appear unforgivably unintentional did they not align so neatly with the style of Abraham's direction. A lively (or livelier) first act, benefitting enormously from the presence of a vivid Elizabeth Olsen and by far the most exposure for Williams' musical output in the whole film (otherwise bafflingly neglectful in this regard), settles into a dreary, solemn, joyless slog through select snippings (and the wrong snippings, by and large) from Williams' later life. Tom Hiddleston commits himself to the character with audacious disregard toward making him palatable to the audience, but Abraham fails to pick up any slack, and renders his story as a mere miserable account of misery. Hiddleston, Olsen, and excellent cinematography by Dante Spinotti (including a close-up lit purely by the inhale of a lit cigarette that's utterly ravishing) are the sole sustenance for this resolutely below-average biopic.