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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Thomas as Hank Williams’

A short review in the Seattle Times doesn’t have much positive to say about the Hank Williams based movie ‘The Last Ride’.

A key paragraph goes like this:

But, alas, “The Last Ride” doesn’t deliver much insight into Williams or the lifestyle that killed him. And while there are some sweet moments, it’s riddled with clichés about the South, masculinity and coming of age. No doubt because of licensing expenses, not one Hank Williams performance appears on the soundtrack.

Of course the failure to present any authentic Hank Williams music has been a major criticism of this movie.
The reviewer ,Paul de Barros, also thinks the driver played by Jesse James becomes the center of attention in the movie instead of Hank played by Henry Thomas.
To be fair a lot of reviewers have praised Thomas’ performance.

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The Hank Williams bio pic covering the last 3 days of his life has earned a positive review by Kerry Lengel in the Arizona Republic Newspaper.

Lengel sees right away that this not really a Hank Williams biography and has little to do with his music, but, as others have said as well, is more of a “gloomy buddy road trip flick”.

But Lengel sees a lot more positives than many other critics I have talked about on this blog.

He calls the movie starring Henry Thomas as Hank “a subtlety affecting character study”. He says, “Hank longs for a simple human connection”.

I liked this comment about Thomas who he says does not attempt to imitate Hank Williams physically, but does,  “immerse himself in the character he’s been given: old before his time, with a mean streak to match his ego and alienated from all humanity, including himself.”  Not everyone would agree with this gloomy depressing insight into Hank’s character and the pain of his short life here on earth, but there is an element of truth in it.

A final quote from the review continues this theme: ” ‘The Last Ride’ measures the distance between the myth and the man. And if that doesn’t make for the cheeriest of viewing experiences, it does offer an alternative to the easy sentimentality that powers the biopic formula.”

As far as we know the movie will open in a more general release, and is not yet available in DVD.

Here’s a link to the review.

And here’s a list of all my posts on this movie over the past several years!!

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With ‘The Last Ride’ now having opened in some major centers including New York, reviews seem largely negative but there is one  genuine rave from a respected film critic which I have saved to the end..

Writers are quite dismissive of the script which many think, in the words of Andrew Lapin at National Public Radio is “short on actual information about Hank Williams”, and makes “Hank Williams takes a back seat” in the film. Pretty tough from an organization that is usually a Hank booster.

In a magazine called ‘Film Journal’ Daniel Egan says the “film doesn’t have much of interest about the singer”. And ‘Village Voices’ Mark Holcombe says the movie has “taken liberties with the facts”.

These writers are all concerned, along with I suppose many true Hank Williams’ fans, that the main story is really fictionalized. For example, the character who is the young teenage driver on the fatal trip  doesn’t know who Hank Williams is. There is a way too much attention on that character, played by Jesse James, according to a lot of critics. ‘The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis goes so far as to call it a “low budget road movie”.

Another strong criticism and  all and  writers just hate this,it that no actual Hank Williams’ recordings are used anywhere in the movie. You never hear his voice. The soundtrack, they say, is mediocre and therefore the movie fails to explain who Hank Williams is, and how an important figure in American musical history he has become.

On the positive side, most of the reviewers I have read so far have very positive things to say about Henry Thomas’ portrayal of Hank Williams which clearly rises far above the rest of the movie and makes the best of the  weak script.

But there is one movie critic and a pretty important one who must have made the producers overjoyed. Rex Reed a famous film reviewer writing in ‘The New York Observer’ calls Thomas’ performance  “a star performance and a poignant experience”. He calls it a “fascinating film, satisfying and sincere”. But he also says the producers should have used original Hank Williams recordings.

Here are a couple of longer quotes to give you the tone of Reed’s rave review.

The Last Ride, carefully directed by Harry Thomason and skillfully written with chords and spaces for humming and breathing by Howie Klausner and Dub Cornett, hauntingly and sensitively negotiates the final three days in the life and death of a legendary character of mythic proportions, warts and all.

 The review ends with this paragraph:
Still, it’s a fascinating film that I enjoyed thoroughly. The Last Ride doesn’t come with a break-the-bank budget and full-page marketing displays, but it is well worth looking for if you’re in the mood for a movie that is captivating, an evocation of a time when the South and its music were on the cusp of change, and just a little bit different. It’s satisfying and sincere in ways most of the big-budget junk currently taking up space on summer marquees never dreamed of.

I should say that Reed accepts more of the script as being factual than some of the other critics. But beyond any doubt this is the best written review I have seen so far. The use of a quote from ‘I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry’ in the ‘New York Observer’ headline is heartbreaking.

Here is his full review. 

Here’s a direct quote from the movie that a lot of true Hank Williams’s fans will understand and appreciate. About his career and fame, the script writers have Hank say: “Not a damn bit of it matters for nothin.”

Here’s the movie website.

And finally here is a complete list of the many, many, many, posts about ‘The Last Ride’ on this humble little blog.

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The Hank Williams movie ‘The Last Ride’ has wrapped up a test run lasting several weeks in a number of  cities in Arkansas as well as Shreveport and Montgomery. Here’s a really positive little  review I found on the movie’s Facebook page. It’s from:

Jami Bonnette Caldwell

Greatly anticipated this movie, as I grew up w/ Mom & her family singing Hank’s great standards…. It was wonderful! Poignant, stirring…. made me laugh & made me tear up a bit. Thoroughly enjoyed recognizing a lot of the locations also, living near Benton & Little Rock. Henry Thomas as “Luke” was definitely a hit…. I actually had to remind myself that he wasn’t that sick or fragile – telling everyone to catch it. Thanks for this treasure!

Before the opening in Montgomery, the two stars Henry Thomas and Jesse James posed at the Hank Williams’ grave and memorial.

I  don’t think a final decision has been made on the future of the film. Something will happen in January; either more theatre showings, or TV, or out on DVD.

Here’s the link to the Facebook page.

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Wow!

‘The Last Ride’ Hank Williams movie starring Henry Thomas never ceases to amaze. Just when you think it may be biting the dust, it takes on new life. At one point after it opened at the Little Rock Film Festival to mixed reviews in the spring, it looked like it might head straight to DVD for rental and store sales.

Of course films are sold online these days which changes things a lot, but normally new movies get three possible venues: Full theatrical release with lots of publicity and big publication reviews, release through TV, and direct to DVD which is the end of the line.

After playing a series of film festivals over the past few month the film makers from Arkansas have wisely sent their Hank film out on a limited run across 7 southern locations including Montgomery and Shreveport.

Along the way, the movie is picking up some good positive comments and is getting a big push from Jett Williams.

Now I notice the film has released a really impressive new website. Here it is.

This blog was churning out publicity about the movie right from start and you may recall we had a lot of input from the people of Arkansas as it was being filmed. This blog is still probably the best source and historical record of ‘The Last Ride’ info anywhere in the media.

Here’s a quick link to all the A Hank Williams Journal’s efforts on Hank Williams movies.

The first post on the subject was in February 2009.

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‘The Last Ride’ film about the final lonely, isolated days of Hank Williams as he travels with only a 17 year old driver from Montgomery to Ohio on New Years 1952-53 will be shown at a number of theatres including Montgomery later this month.

The movie was  shown at a number of film festivals beginning in the spring.

It was directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomason, and stars Henry Thomas.

The film will open October 21st in Montgomery AL, Shreveport and West Monroe LA, and 4 locations in Arkansas where the movie was filmed: Rogers, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Little Rock.

This blog has run many articles and photos about  this film and its history.

Here are some of them. 

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Reaction to the film on the last days of Hank Williams called ‘The Last Ride’ has been decidedly mixed. The movie starring Henry Thomas as Hank and directed by Harry Thomason has played a number of film festivals culminating in a star turn at the Little Rock Film Festival in early June.

However, I have found one very positive review. This is by Nelson Terry who is writing in an online entertainment site out of Little Rock called examiner.com.

Terry is particularly impressed by Henry Thomas who plays Hank Williams in the film. He seems quite willing to accept that there is no actual Hank Williams music in the movie, and he is not actually named in it either. To some extent the film focuses on Hank’s driver who is fictionalized, but Terry finds that interplay interesting.

Obviously Hank purists may find this movie unsatisfactory, but from what I have read about it, it does not diminish Hank’s reputation or stature.  Here’s a portion of the review:

For a biographical film that only focuses on a few days of the life of a public figure, The Last Ride is a strong picture. I was impressed by Henry Thomas’ performance, at no point during the movie did I ever picture him as the kid from E.T. On screen, he was Hank. I thought Jesse James played his part admirably as well. Before this film began to hit the festivals, the Williams family wanted to see it to make sure it didn’t paint Hank (nor the family) in too negative a light. They watched the film, and gave it their approval. Most of the source material for this film came from interviews with Hank’s last driver (whose name was changed in the film at his request). It turned out that the experience of having a music legend die in the backseat of the car he was driving messed the kid up pretty badly (age 19 in the film, but age 17 in real life), and he didn’t really want to be publicly involved with the film.

According to the filmmakers, The Last Ride is supposed to get a wide release by Fox in September. GO SEE IT!

The whole review can be found HERE.

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