Generally favorable reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 27
  2. Negative: 1 out of 27
  1. 90
    Honeydripper is classic Sayles cinema: an insightful sketch of assorted common folk whose criss-crossing dreams and agendas unfold against larger, more powerful (and sometimes crushing) sociopolitical and cultural forces.
  2. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    The result is one of Sayles' best films. The music, a mix of blues, seminal rock and newcomer Gary Clark Jr.'s performance, will be an obvious draw, as will the performances by some leading African-American actors.
  3. 88
    Rich with characters and flowing with music.
  4. 80
    Honeydripper offers a leisurely, atmospheric production with lots of time to appreciate his largely African-American cast, along with rocking musical interludes and just the faintest wash of spirituality.
  5. 80
    Music may be Honeydripper's most indelible element and Sayles and longtime collaborator, composer Mason Daring, seamlessly incorporate several original songs alongside the soundtrack's period tunes.
  6. Danny Glover, as hard-rock reliable as Spencer Tracy in his prime, plays onetime pianist Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis.
  7. Typical of a pretty good Sayles movie. There are few, if any, heroes and villains.
  8. 75
    ''Everything got a rhythm, even pulling cotton off the plant,'' a field hand offers helpfully. Like his eager young bluesman when he finally hits the stage, Sayles hits exactly the right notes.
  9. In its first half, Honeydripper trickles. In its second, it really flows.
  10. The subtlety is the beauty of it.
  11. 75
    It's about ordinary people living in the shadow of nagging, day-to-day racism, and about the music that reminds them of what's right with the world rather than what's wrong.
  12. 75
    With Honeydripper, Sayles has done what he always does: bring together a group of characters and allow us to relish their interaction. His affection for the characters is both obvious and infectious. We like them, warts and all.
  13. John Sayles ventures into August Wilson territory with Honeydripper.
  14. His heart -- and musical soul -- is in the right place, but the film makes you at times uncomfortable with black and Southern stereotypes that may hinder some from fully enjoying an otherwise benign and cheerful tall tale of the Saturday night when rock came to rural Alabama.
  15. 70
    At its best when the characters sit around, dither, and ruminate. Moviemaking seems to have become almost magically easy for this independent writer-director. He builds a detailed atmosphere, brings his good people and his bad together, and lets them jabber at one another; the virtuosity is rhetorical rather than visual.
  16. Reviewed by: Josh Rosenblatt
    Honeydripper’s story isn’t anything you haven’t seen a dozen times before, but where Sayles succeeds (where Sayles always succeeds) is in his ability to dramatize the psychological and linguistic details that give identity to a subculture struggling for survival.
  17. 67
    There are precisely zero surprises in how things play out--the main thread is basically "Big Night" revisited--but the film gets better as it goes along, and it closes with a rousing musical flourish, as immensely charismatic newcomer Clark Jr. finally hits the stage. At last, Sayles' sleepy drama wakes with a start.
  18. There is a great movie to be made about the first stirrings of rock 'n' roll. Honeydripper is not that film, but it certainly whets your appetite for it.
  19. Like previous films by the literary-minded auteur John Sayles, Honeydripper takes forever to develop its characters, its period and its location. But once it's done all that, the payoffs are rich.
  20. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Has John Sayles finally lost his mojo? How anyone could take a subject like the moment the Delta blues went electric and suck the joy and fury out of it is anybody's guess, but the talky, dull "Honeydripper" represents playwriting rather than filmmaking. And didactic playwriting at that.
  21. A contemplative fable, Honeydripper locates the moment but misses the heart-pounding, gut-wrenching explosion -- the history is there, the thrill isn't.
  22. Reviewed by: Anna Hart
    A gentle, enjoyable musical fable.
  23. Honeydripper is agreeable, well-intentioned and very, very slow. Sadly, it illustrates the difference between an archetype and a stereotype. When the first falls flat, it turns into the other and becomes a cliché.
  24. True to his stolid, humanist instincts and characteristically stodgy directorial style, writer-director John Sayles creates a story more educational than engrossing.
  25. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    flat and disappointing.
  26. 50
    The movie is well-acted, but it's as talky as if it were written for the stage, with fatally slow pacing. Strictly for hard-core Sayles fans and maybe for lovers of American roots music.
  27. 30
    Trudging nobly under a mantle of impeccably earnest intentions and a fussy, too-quaint-by-half production design, Honeydripper lags and drags to its utterly predictable end. There's not a spark of spontaneity or soul about it.

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