Film Review Cloud
13 Tzameti A Prophet Afghanistan Alan Sharp Aldous Huxley Aldrich Alex Garland Alphaville Altman Anthony Mann AntiChrist Antonioni Assazyez Baader Meinhof Badlands Baumbach Belmondo Ben Foster Bergman Best Films of 2008 Best Films of 2009m Jia Zhang-ke Best Films of 2010 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Bielinksy Big Dead Place Bill Pullman Billy Name Binoche Black Narcissus Blleder Blue Crush Bob Dylan Bone Tomahawk Breillat Bresson Brick Brisseau Bruce Surtees Bullwinkle Carlos Casino Royale Celine and Julie Go Boating Chabrol Chaplin Charlie Haden Cherry Jones Chris Pine Clint Eastwood Coen Brothers Criterion Da Vinci Code Daisies Dante Spinotti Dassin David Watkins David Wilentz Days of Heaven Deadwood Dean & Britta Death Proof Deborah Kerr Delon Delueze Dennis Wilson Derek Jarman District 9 Don Cherry Douglas Sirk Dreyer Driver Dumot Dunst DW Griffith Eastwood El Aura Elizabeth Olsen Elliot Gould Emeric Pressburger Errol Morris Ex Machina Exiled Exodus Exterminating Angels Fata Morgana Fiennes Film Forum Fish Tank Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More Freddy Herko French Frtiz Lang Gaby Rogers Galaxie 500 Ghost Town Gil Birmingham Godard Gomorrah Greenberg Greta Gerwig Grizzly Man Guadagnino Gus Van Zant Hackman Hank Williams Hara Kiri Help Me Eros Henry Fonda Herzog HHelp Me Eros Hitchcock; Vanity Fair Hong Sang-soo Hudson Hawk I Am Love I Know Where I'm Going ImamuraTarantino In Bruges In The Loop Insomnia Isabelle Huppert Jar City jazz Jeff Bridges Jennifer Warren Jimmy Stewart Joanna Hogg John Ford John Woo Johnny To Jose Giovanni Jude Law Julia Ormond Kael Kang-sheng Lee Ken Russell Kiiyoshi Kurosawa Kill! Kiss Me Deadly Kristen Stewart Kubrick Kwaidan LA LOI Lance Rocke Lars Trier Laurie Bird Layer Cake Le Mepris Le Samourai Lebanon Lenny Bruce Lessons of Darkness Lester Bangs Let The Right One In Linda Linda Linda Lino Ventura Lou Reed Lumet Maddie Hasson Maïwenn Malick Marc Abraham Marcel Ophuls Margot at the Wedding Marina Vlady Masculin feminin Mastroianni Mayersberg; Croupier McCabe & Mrs. Miller Mechanic Meeker Melancholia Melville Memories of Murder Michael Blodgett Michael Caine Michael Mann Michael Powell Michael Shannon Miroslav Slaboshptskiy Miyazaki Montand Monte Hellman Mopar Mungiu Nicholas Ray Nicholas Winding Refn Nico Night and the City Night Moves Nolte Nuri Bilge Ceylan Oliver Reed Olivier Assayas Ornette Coleman Oscar Isaacs OSS 117 Lost in Rio Pale Flower Paranoid Park Paris Passion of Joan of Arc Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Paul Schrader Paul Verhoeven Pecinpah Penn Pierrot le fou Police Adjective Polisse Preston Sturges Pulp Fiction Pusher Pusher II Pusher III Raoul Coutard Raw Deal Raymond Chandler Red Riding Red Shoes Refn Restrepo Richard III Rififi Rivette Robert Altman Robert Graves Robin Hood robots Rock Hudson Rodney Crowell Rohmer Russ Myer Sailor Suit & Macine Gun Sam Raimi Samuel Fuller Samurai Rebellion Samurai Spy Sautet Schnabel science fiction Sergio Leone Seven Samurai Seventh Seal Sexy Beast Shotgun Stories Sjostrom Soderberg Spartacus Blood and Sand Spartacus: Blood and Sand State of Seige Sterling Hayden
Books By David N Meyer
  • Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    by David N. Meyer
  • The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    by David N. Meyer
  • A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    by David N. Meyer
Social Links

Entries in Maddie Hasson (1)


I Saw The Light

 Sony Pictures Classics

When Hank Williams set out to get famous, Hillbilly was a niche. His 35 Top Ten songs in only six years turned it into mainstream Country. Nonstop night-after-night gigs, the amphetamines that fueled them, the barbiturates that brought sleep afterward and the liquor that made life bearable in between triggered the heart attack that killed Hank – at only 29 – in the back of his Cadillac on a twolane blacktop on the way to another show. With his skinny elegant frame, bottomless Satanic eyes, pursed redneck mouth and astonishing bespoke cowboy outfits, Williams provided the (white) wild-ass prototype for all the Dionysian self-destructives who followed him into popular music.

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams with the Drifting Cowboys Photo by Sam Emerson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

But Williams had something they – and pretty much every other songwriter in history – lacked: A genius for setting nursery rhymes of universal sadness and longing to jaunty, unforgettable melodies. Dude had some appetites on him, too, and the determination to indulge them. In other words, Williams was a Colossus, and now ripe for a biopic.

What shines, and makes the film worth seeing, is an immersive, mesmerizing star turn by English actor Tom Hiddleston. He perfectly captures Williams’ self-contained suspicion, damn-fool contrary country pride and unselfconscious joy at performing. Hiddleston sings Hank’s tunes himself. He’s credible and it’s a relief not to hear a dead man’s voice coming out of an actor’s mouth. Hiddleston's onscreen band plays and recorded using period instruments, amplifiers and techniques, guided by Nashville curmudgeon and self-appointed guardian of country-roots authenticity Rodney Crowell. The songs sound good.

Williams had outrageous style. One visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame will convince you he could match Miles Davis, Gram Parsons or Sly Stone for elegant flamboyance and that’s saying something. Hiddleston wears suits embroidered with giant musical notes and fringed white-satin cowboy shirts with natural insouciance. He ambles onstage in these deranged wonders as easy as if in his PJs – to the stage and stardom born. Hiddleston finds the inner fire that lit up Williams when he sang. Hank’s tragic cycle: Fully human only when performing, but the toils of performing killed him. It’s a formula most music-martyr films indulge, but seems hard to argue with here.

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams Photo by Sam Emerson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Director Marc Abraham’s obsessively researched portrait never quite escapes biopic conventions. The production design captures the subtleties and status/class motifs of the clothing, cars, instruments, modes of speech, mannerisms and showbiz gestalts of the era, but all that detail feels oddly pro forma and unspecific. None of it illuminates Williams’ prodigious inner demons. He does stuff and folks around him shake their heads. “Whoo-eee, that boy’s a puzzlement – even to hisself !” is about as much of a character reveal as the screenplay provides.

Predictably, the story posits woman-trouble as the engine of Hank’s drinkin’, druggin’ & whorin’. That legendary whorin’ all takes place offstage; the multiple Williams’ descendants listed in the Thank You credits may account for this relatively sanitized saga. Elizabeth Olsen, despite her astonishing eyes (what Godard could do with her face!) never quite convinces as Hank’s hard-ass wife Audrey. She’s at least granted more depth than Maddie Hasson and Wren Schmidt. Though based on real folks, they come off as only window-dressing, underwritten story-fodder. For reasons never made clear or credible, Hank’s instantly smitten with one but not the other, even though the other will bear his child. The actresses compensate for their superficial roles by being made-up, done-up and coiffed to a fare-thee-well regardless of plot circumstances. Even the redoubtable Cherry Jones gets reduced to a stereotype – the dangerously over-protective southern mama.

(The mighty, mighty) Cherry Jones as Lillie Williams Photo by Sam Emerson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

In the opening shot, Hiddleston leans against a stool, singing acapella in an iconic but false-seeming pose. He’s bathed in shafts of beatific light. The camera circles as he sings. As the song comes to a close and the camera draws near, the light recedes to reveal the human face of this clearly angelic – that is, long-dead – figure. It’s the only expressive or metaphoric shot in a film of quotidian naturalism and sets an artificial tone. It’s the kind of moment producers impose on a finished picture they think doesn’t show its star as sufficiently starry or its subject as sufficiently mythical.

Abraham refuses, to his credit, to traffic in visual or narrative myth. Weirdly, though, he never fully exploits the genius of Michael Mann’s go-to cinematographer Dante Spinotti (Public Enemies, Heat; Manhunter). Abraham’s frames are simple prosceniums from which actors declaim, like expensive television. The absence of visual style and the awkward editing – especially of Hank achieving his lifelong dream of singing on the Grand Ole Opry – drag the story down. So does the labored device of cutting to B/W “interviews” of Hank’s collaborators.

The ending – uh, sorry: Hank died in his car – comes off frustratingly matter of fact. There’s little sense of untimely tragedy. As with other crucial moments, Abraham’s laudably sincere love of the music and of his subject cannot compensate for his pedestrian storytelling.