out of Five
Running time: 123
Enjoyable drama with a strong script by writer-director John Sayles and a superb performance from Danny Glover.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by John Sayles, Honeydripper is set in Alabama in 1950 and stars Danny Glover as Tyrone 'Pine Top' Purvis, the owner of the Honeydripper Lounge, a struggling juke joint in the crossroads town of Harmony. Under threat from a rival bar across the way, Pine Top sacks his ageing blues singer Bertha Mae (Dr Mable John) and stakes everything on a major Saturday night gig, hiring popular New Orleans musician Guitar Sam to bring the crowds in.
However, things don't go according to plan, from the Honeydripper's malfunctioning power supply to a booking foul-up and the local sheriff (Stacey Keach) making veiled threats. And then young guitarist Sonny Blake (Gary Clark Jr) wanders into town with his home-made electric guitar, looking for work.
The plot is completely predictable (to the point where you spend ages just waiting for Sonny to plug in his guitar), but Sayles packs the film with such likeable characters that the plot dynamics don't really matter. Similarly, the script crackles with good dialogue (Sayles frequently supplements his own career with stints as a sought-after script doctor) and really captures the atmosphere of the period.
Danny Glover is superb as Pine Top, while there's strong support from Stacey Keach, Charles S Dutton (as Pine Top's right-hand man) and Lisa Gay Hamilton as Pine Top's religious wife, Delilah. The music is superb too, but then, in a film like this, that probably goes without saying.
The interesting thing is that the film manages to be about race relations and the shifting tide of history without ever becoming too preachy.
In short, Honeydripper is a warm-hearted, enjoyable drama that's worth seeing for its combination of a great script, terrific music and Danny Glover's central performance.