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Honeydripper (2007)



Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 86
Fresh: 58 | Rotten: 28

Honeydripper's electric musical numbers and sharp performances make for an exciting film, despite its slow pace.


Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 33
Fresh: 22 | Rotten: 11

Honeydripper's electric musical numbers and sharp performances make for an exciting film, despite its slow pace.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 1,765

My Rating

Movie Info

It's 1950, and it's a make or break weekend for Tyrone Purvis, 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 long-time blues singer Bertha Mae and announces that he's 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



John Sayles

Jun 24, 2008

Emerging Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (94) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (58) | Rotten (28) | DVD (3)

While this may not be the rowdiest birth-of-rock-'n'-roll film ever made -- it's very likely the least rowdy -- Sayles addresses a transitional moment in his own patient, precise way.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It survives on its versatile leads, its smoky cinematography (courtesy of Dick Pope) and its seductive musical performances, which run from gospel to jazz to blues to the to the electrifying kick-start of early rock 'n' roll.

March 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even more than the music in this musically rich picture, the great pleasure of Honeydripper is in watching Danny Glover as Tyrone Purvis, the club owner.

February 29, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Although Honeydripper won a screenplay award at the San Sebastián Film Festival, it's not Sayles' strongest work. Part of the problem is that it keeps building to a rock-'n'-roll payoff that never quite arrives.

February 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An engaging and inspirational tale... handled with graceful understatement.

December 27, 2008 Full Review Source:

It's optimistic, and maybe it doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with history, but it's a tale well told.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

It's a leisurely paced period musical drama set in the Jim Crow south of the 1950s that's steeped in the black southern mores ... .

June 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

John Sayles, after 27 years and 16 films, is the ancient mariner of independent cinema, navigating the constantly swirling waters of the genre with passion and skill.

June 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Atlantic City Weekly
Atlantic City Weekly

This isn't the kind of flashy Big Issue movie that makes people stand up and take notice. It's quiet and moody, with outbursts of strong emotion and energy.

May 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall


April 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

In this allegory, you understand, times change and troubles stay the same.

March 21, 2008 Full Review Source: PopMatters

... a tone deaf movie, filled with obvious, overly expository dialogue and sometimes patronizing symbols.

March 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The movie's central story is too slight and predictable to justify all the embroidery Sayles adds around the edges.

March 17, 2008
Salt Lake Tribune

Never reaches its full tempo

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Fresno Bee
Fresno Bee

Those who are patient will be rewarded with an engaging cast and the type of rousing ending that makes it worthwhile.

March 13, 2008 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

The cumulative effect is very tasty indeed.

March 10, 2008 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

John Sayles is back in the saddle with another film in his regional cinema series

March 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

like a rich and complex novel rendered as a visual experience that is equally rich and as unabashedly poetic in its images as Sayles is with his metaphors

March 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Killer Movie Reviews
Killer Movie Reviews

Honeydripper is an electrifying period piece about how music can bring folks together and generally save one's soul -- or at least its final 15 minutes is. The rest of the time, it's just a lot of sassy talk and scenery.

February 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Washington City Paper
Washington City Paper

Honeydripper is a pleasant enough story, but when Sayles is involved, it is a shock to feel so little.

February 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Contra Costa Times
Contra Costa Times

With its cotton-field locations, diddley-bo props and scripted nods toward blues history and mythology, 'Honeydripper' somehow feels touristy rather than authentic -- as if it were a product of research rather than passion.

February 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) | Comment (1)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Audience Reviews for Honeydripper

Despite a charismatic cast and good music, Honeydripper feels dull and lifeless.
January 26, 2014
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Honeydripper" starts on a Saturday night in Harmony, Alabama in 1950 and the Honeydripper Lounge is certainly not jumping. Its proprietor, Tyrone(Danny Glover), even sends his star performer, Bertha Mae(Mable John), home. Tyrone is married to Delilah(Lisa Gay Hamilton) who supports him despite her attending revival meetings. She hopes to save up enough money to send her daughter, China Doll(Yaya DaCosta), to beauty school, so she can make a better life for herself. But Tyrone cannot afford to even buy alcohol and he is behind on the bar's rent, forced to eviction unless he can come up with the money quickly. He hopes that the popular Guitar Sam coming to play will turn his fortunes around. Meanwhile, a young guitarist(Gary Clark Jr.) gets off the northbound train...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Written, directed and edited by John Sayles, "Honeydripper" is a partial return to form for the great director with another slice of Americana, where music is only part of the story. Racism is at the heart, but not in any melodramatic fashion, more in an everday fashion. As somebody else said, these people would not lead such awful lives if they did not have to. So, they need a place somewhere on Saturday night to forget their troubles, be it a bar or a revival meeting with promises of a world better than this one. The crossroads is both a literal and a metaphorical place, for music where blues are about to turn into rock and roll and also where the modern civil rights movement is about to start up. [/font]
January 1, 2008
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Dull. John Sayles tries to be too cute and ends up creating a snoozer. Why should we care about these characters?
July 21, 2008
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

John Sayles is an odd filmmaker in that his work seems oddly isolated from everything else Hollywood puts out. He?s almost a textbook example of what an auteur is, in that one can guess he directed a film simply by watching a single scene, but pinpointing why his work is recognizable is not always as easy as it is with other filmmakers. There?s something in the dialogue, the way the actors behave, and the ambitious aim of his uniquely American stories that positively define his work behind the camera. His newest film, Honeydripper, was mostly ignored in theaters and I had hoped that it would be an underappreciated gem; unfortunately it?s minor Sayles at best.

The film is set in a fictional Alabama town of Harmony during the very early 1950s. The film specifically focuses on Harmony?s black community, particularly a tavern/dance hall called the Honeydripper. The venue is owned by Tyrone Purvis (Danny Glover), but it has fallen on hard times. Purvis is in danger of losing the place to a loan shark, so he and his friend Maceo (Charles S. Dutton) plan a last ditch effort to stay in business by bringing in a famous blues musician named Guitar Sam to play a big gig that would generate enough money to pay Purvis? rent. Purvis has recently drifted away from his wife Delilah (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and is also being threatened by the town?s racist sheriff (Stacy Keach). Meanwhile a young man named Sonny (Gary Clark Jr.) has arrived in town carrying a guitar case and interested in auditioning at the local music scene to make ends meet. Purvis can?t really afford the show he plans to put on and it becomes clear that the evening?s entertainment will be a make or break night for him and the Honeydripper.

There was a lot less music in the film then I had expected, the story clearly deals with people who have music as a major part of their life, but the soundtrack is not loaded with period music. There is a great performance scene toward the end which features the use of a very early electric guitar, the music played is a primitive and toe tapping form of rock and roll.

The movie?s main problem is mainly that it has a lot of southern clichés. Among the types to be found here: a redneck sheriff, an eager young man gone to town to make something of his music career, a white southern housewife oblivious to the rest of the world, and a blind old coot who plays guitar on main street stoops. Occasionally Sayles will do some unexpected things with these types, for instance that Sheriff proves to ultimately be more interested in getting free chicken than oppressing people just for the fun of it, there?s also a neat twist with the blind old coot.

Danny Glover is probably the best thing about the film, he?s got just the right ability to seem like a nice and likable guy, but still having a certain gruffness to his character. It?s clear that Glover?s character has seen a lot over the course of his career as a bar owner and blues enthusiast. He?s a character that clearly has a past and the audience easily gets the gist of it without the movie explicitly showing or describing much of it.

In final analysis, Honeydripper is just a very average and fairly forgettable film. It has a neat atmosphere, the story works well enough, but it?s just a very small trifle of a film. Had I seen it in theaters I would have felt vaguely ripped off, and I?m not sure I?d even recommend it as a DVD rental. But, if you see it on cable or something like that I do think it?s worth giving a shot.
July 27, 2008

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