John Sayles’s mediocre Honeydipper is flanked by two great scenes. In the first, two African-American boys in 1950 rural Alabama play for each other on fantasy instruments, though their strumming and singing suggests they hardly know what music is. In the second, after “Guitar Sam” comes to town and saves Tyrone “Pine Top” Purvis’s Honeydripper Lounge from extinction, the boys jam on instruments made of wood and string as if they were born songmen. The film builds real slowly to the Honeydripper’s salvation and this awesome moment of bliss, with an enervation of visual style that is as tiring as the pearls of wisdom that perpetually spill from the mouths of the story’s characters. Smack dab in the Jim Crow-era South, Sayles captures a time and place in transition, peering in on the lives of blacks and whites alike, though no one is conceived beyond an anachronistic type, like Nadine (davenia McFadden), a butterball of perpetually smirking hormones, or Amanda Winship (Mary Steenburgen), one of those shrinking white violets who probably never leaves her house, and though she is kind to her silver-polishing maid, Delilah (Lisa Gay Hamilton), she isn’t very conscious of where she puts her drinking glass. Honeydripper is more hopeful than Sunshine State but possibly more naïve: Music saves the day and racial strife is no more dangerous than Stacy Keach’s almost huggable Sherrif Pugh arresting a young musician, Sonny Blake (Gary Clark Jr.), and putting him on cotton-pickin’ duty for “gawkerry with intent to mope.” Poor Delilah doesn’t know whether to pray to the Lord or fry chicken, though one wonders if her need for religion is really just an escape from the truisms her husband Tyrone (Danny Glover) is prone to spitting out like gunfire. He’s boring, and so is Sayles, who appears to have no more cards to play after Matewan and Sunshine State.
- Emerging Pictures
- 122 min
- John Sayles
- John Sayles
- Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Yaya DaCosta, Charles S. Dutton, Vondie Curtis Hall, Gary Clark Jr., Dr. Mable John, Stacy Keach, Nagee Clay, Absalom Adams, Arthur Lee Williams, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Davenia McFadden, Daryl Edwards, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eric Abrams, Kel Mitchell, Keb' Mo', Tom Wright, donnie l. betts, John Sayles, Larry Coker, Mary Steenburgen
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