1950. Rural Alabama. Cotton harvest. It's a make-or-break weekend for the Honeydripper Lounge and its owner, piano player Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis. Deep in debt to the liquor man, the ... See full summary »
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1950. Rural Alabama. Cotton harvest. It's a make-or-break weekend for the Honeydripper Lounge and its owner, piano player Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis. Deep in debt to the liquor man, the chicken man, and the landlord, Tyrone is desperate to lure the young cotton pickers and local Army base recruits into his juke joint, away from Touissant's, the rival joint across the way. His plan to hire a guitar legend go awry and Tyrone is forced to take drastic action in a final scheme to save the club. Written by
A Welome Return by America's Great Independent Working Class Film Maker
This is not a great movie by any stretch, but it is a very GOOD one. My rating should be 7.8. IMDb, invest in some higher technology! John Sayles proves yet again what can be done when there is unity of vision on a film, and when everyone involved passionately believes in what they are doing. Any limitations this film has must surely be due to the budget (was there one?) rather than any creative lapses on Sayles' part.
In fact, the only problems I have with "Honeydripper" are technical: some of the shots are out of focus, some of the scenes drag, and there is not a lot of dramatic tension to carry the piece along. It is enough, though, for those of us who can handle something more relaxed than the kinetics of Michael Bey or Steven ("I'll do anything for an Oscar!") Spielberg.
"Honeydripper" is really a small character study of a working class man, surrounded by good people, who is trying do do right by them and himself. It is a romance for the nostalgia of the Deep South in 1950, a period where Jim Crow was on the cusp of yielding to John Kennedy.
It is also a romance for music, where Gospel and Blues was about to fuse and metamorphise into Rock 'n Roll. Sayles loves everything he is doing; you can feel the writer/director's respect and integrity through the camera and the screen.
Unusual for a Sayles film, Danny Glover anchors the piece as its central character, the axis upon which the story and all the characters revolve. All the characters are complete human beings, with only a few drawn as caricatures. I don't mind.
This would be a good film to show as a double bill with "The Great Debators". Several themes overlap, but "Honeydrippers" is the more mature film. Here, a man's biggest grievance is not being able to live in dignity as a man who pays his way. Sayles' characteristic character arcs provide us with many dignified men and women who achieve that dignity by finding ways to honestly pay their way. They do it with joy, love and creativity.
Another fine Working Class film from Cinema's Working Class Hero.
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