Generally favorable reviews - based on 27 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

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  • Summary: It's 1950, and it's a make-or-break weekend for Tyrone Purvis (Danny Glover), the proprietor of the Honeydripper Lounge. Deep in debt, Tyrone is desperate to bring back the crowds that used to come to his place. He decides to lay off his longtime blues singer Bertha Mae and announces that he has hired a famous guitar player, Guitar Sam, for a one-night-only gig in order to save the club. Into town drifts Sonny Blake, a young man with nothing to his name but big dreams and the guitar case in his hand. Rejected by Tyrone when he applies to play at the Honeydripper, he is intercepted by the corrupt local sheriff, arrested for vagrancy, and rented out as an unpaid cotton picker to the highest bidder. But when Tyrone's ace-in-the-hole fails to materialize at the train station, his desperation leads him back to Sonny and the strange, wire-dangling object in his guitar case. The Honeydripper Lounge is all set to play its part in rock and roll history. (Emerging Pictures) Collapse
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. 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.
  3. Typical of a pretty good Sayles movie. There are few, if any, heroes and villains.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See all 27 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 6
  2. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. TerryB.
    Jan 23, 2008
    Talk about "vibe"!!! Great !!!
  2. LuckyJ
    Sep 21, 2008
    Any John Sayles film is worth a look. Consider "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" before you start handing out zeros in such a cavalier fashion. (cancelling your stat-skewing, tw, ftw) Expand
  3. ChadS.
    Apr 19, 2008
    After lukewarm responses for both "Casa de los Babys" and "Silver City", the godfather of the American independent film movement steps down from his soapbox, for the interim, and goes back in time, to immerse the moviegoer inside the phantasmagorical world of the imagined south, made hyper-real by such "regional" writers as William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. Tyrone Purvis(Danny Glover) owns a two-bit juke-joint, a house of spiritual uplift in its own right, but nevertheless, a watering hole is still just a watering hole, and not a church, by his god-fearing wife's standards. All black music can be traced back to the church, however; all black music was once touched by god. The juke-joint is like The Church of Christ Without Christ. "Guitar Sam"(Gary Clark Jr.) is the man with "wise blood". He knows that the electric guitar is the new jesus of cool. Tyrone might not be a preacher, and his juke-joint might not be a church, but both man and institution are sanctified by music and share an aversion to blood. Flavor Flav(of Public Enemy) once barked, "Honeydripper/sucker sipper/big dipper/sucker dipper," back when the reality TV star was "on a hype tip", incidentally, around the same time that this director made his last period piece film. The one about the coal miners. Once again, we're "Cold Lampin' with Say-le Sayles", twenty years later, with arguably his best film since 1987's "Matewan"(certainly, this is his most accesible outing since 1996's "Lone Star"). When Delilah(Lisa Gay Hamilton) chooses her husband over her church, we realize that she's Lily Sabbath all grown up. It's not the first time she has left a blind preacher for a blind sinner, her husband, the one with a murder rap like Hazel Motes. "Honeydripper", aside from the film's racial component, is about the synchronicity between spiritual and secular music. But there's racial tension, too. It's unavoidable. As racist sheriffs go, though, this sheriff(Stacy Keach) isn't Sheriff Charlie Wade-bad(from "Lone Star", the sheriff played by Kris Kristofferson). "Honeydripper" avoids the usual trappings of other historical films that deal with institutionalized racism(the only burning in this film is a guitar burning), in favor of showing the prevailing caste system between northern and southern "Negroes". "Lone Star" was about race. "Honeydripper" is more about music. And in that respect, "Honeydripper" is his least political movie, albeit politics are rife on the screen, since 1994's "The Secret of Roan Inish". His leftist politics doesn't smother the narrative in pedagogy, this time. Nobody gets lynched. Expand
  4. LisaN.
    Jan 16, 2008
    In John Sayles' latest film, Danny Glover plays a struggling nightclub owner in 1950's Alabama. Surrounded by obstacles, he puts everything behind one last attempt to save his club and books a Saturday night performance by a famed guitar player. The story, partially inspired by Sayles' short story, "Keeping Time," is full of a community of complex fully-realized characters. And although the plot moves along slowly, you can not help but feel drawn into their plights. While this film is not nearly as wonderful as some of Sayles' finest work (such as "Lone Star" or "Passionfish"), this film is a definitely a worthwhile watch. Expand
  5. JayH.
    Jun 19, 2008
    Lackluster period detail and a very slow moving story hinder this from working well. The acting is quite good at least, but is a bit melodramatic. Rather talky which makes at at times tedious. Expand
  6. TomaszW.
    Jan 3, 2008
    Honeydripper is an embarrassing failure on many fronts mercilessly exposing Sayles's deficiencies as a director and a total lack of talent as a writer. It's sluggish and painfully predictable in plot development, handicapped by wooden acting (best represented by a zombie performance of Danny Glover) and stagey sets, and poisoned with grating racial and cultural stereotypes. The story has unbreachable holes, characters lack reasonable motivations, and the whole film looks like a an expensive high school show. Expand