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I Saw The Light • The Boss

April 7, 2016

I Saw the Light (**) R

For years one of my cinematic dream projects has been for someone to bring the story of the life and times of country music legend Hank Williams to the big screen in a way that’s befitting of the late singer. I always felt it was a story ripe for a retelling after, incredibly, having only been brought to the screen once in the safe and sanitized 1964 film, Your Cheating Heart, a film that starred George Hamilton in the lead role and featured songs performed by Hank Williams, Jr. When I heard about writer/director Marc Lawrence’s plans to do just that several years ago I could barely contain myself with excitement and enthusiasm at the thought of finally getting to see a warts and all biopic of Williams. Now, after having seen the film, all I can say is I can’t wait for the next attempt at a take on Williams’ hard life and times, which, sadly, probably won’t ever happen.

Most biopics usually strive to do one of two things well and sometimes succeed at both. The filmmakers usually take aim at either the creative process of the artist or the more salacious elements involved in the subject’s life. I Saw the Light doesn’t even make an attempt to accomplish either of these things. When you go to see a film about a subject such as Hank Williams, an artist who literally died as a result of alcoholism, you expect to see scenes of high drama depicting the nasty side of said disease. Those scenes are not to be found in this film and neither are the scenes depicting the artist’s creative process which leaves one to wonder just exactly why the film was even made in the first place. You know you’re in trouble when the film ends and the filmmakers don’t even go to the trouble of depicting the singer’s death and instead have a secondary character announce it from the concert stage instead.

Tom Hiddlleston & Elizabeth Olsen in ‘Light’

British actor Tom Hiddleston, better known from his appearances in the Marvel Comics’ Thor films, inhabits the role of the film’s subject quite well from a physical standpoint. He also appears to sing his own songs in the film and I will most certainly give the actor props for attempting to do that. The trouble is that even though Hiddleston embodies the physical essence of Williams, he never quite seems to get the voice completely down, every now and again letting his Alabama accent come and go at will. It’s more than a bit distracting. Elizabeth Olsen is decent but saddled with an underwritten part in her role as Williams’ long- suffering wife, Audrey.

It’s a shame that the film looks as good as this one does but has no real heart or narrative drive to keep the audience engaged. All we’re really left with is Hiddleston’s performance and the inclusion of Williams’ songs on the soundtrack and that’s not nearly to recommend the film, even to die-hard fans of Hank Williams.

The Boss (* ½) R

While I’m admittedly in the camp of those who believe actress Melissa McCarthy’s on screen persona is best when taken in small doses, I couldn’t help but find myself surprised at how much I enjoyed the actress’ secret agent spoof, Spy, from last summer. The film was so good that it made me rethink my long policy of dismissing most of McCarthy’s cinematic output since her breakthrough success after appearing in the 2011 comedy, Bridesmaids. Spy was a tremendously entertaining effort whose success I hoped would lead to better film projects. Unfortunately, McCarthy has not chosen wisely with her first film effort since Spy. The actress’ latest film is a predictably implausible comedy that’s mostly devoid of laughs, attempting to recycle jokes and situations that would have been old hat twenty years ago. Most of the film’s punch lines can be spotted way in advance and really aren’t that funny when they actually do arrive. All told, I laughed twice during the film. Perhaps that will give some indication of the film’s hit to miss ratio regarding the jokes.

McCarthy is Michelle Darnell, the film’s main character. Darnell is a successful motivational speaker whose life is turned upside down when she’s accused of insider training and forced to serve four months in jail.

Kristen Bell & McCarthy in The Boss

Upon her exit from jail, she quickly struggles to find her way back and hits on a scheme to start up a business selling brownies and competing with Girl Scout Cookies (yes, you read that correctly). Darnell coerces her former assistant (Kristen Bell) to join her in her schemes which she does but only long enough for the film to run out of laughs and take a left turn towards trite sentimentality in its final act.

McCarthy has once again employed her husband, Ben Falcone, by giving him the position as director of the film, a feat last attempted with horrible results in her 2013 film, Tammy. I can’t help but think that a director such as Paul Feig, the writer and director of Spy, could have found a more interesting vehicle for the characters in this film to inhabit. Falcone, on the other hand, is about as tone deaf as they come in regards to comedy and jokes land with a deadening thud time and again. 

Michelle Darnell is an interesting concoction, I will admit. It’s a shame that McCarthy, along with her screenwriting co-conspirators on the film, Falcone and Steve Mallory, don’t give her anything of interest to do beyond the lame shenanigans that the film’s trailer suggests. The actress has stated in interviews that the Darnell character has been around since the days that McCarthy was cutting her teeth doing improv comedy. To me it all comes across as simply a character in search of a film more than anything else.  Unfortunately, The Boss isn’t that film.

Both these movies are playing at theaters all over this area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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