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Rated 3 stars
by 314 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Unique and Memorable
by Jacqueline Jung

Harmony, Alabama 1950: Pianist Tyrone “Pine Top” Purvis, played by Danny Glover, struggles to keep his Honeydripper Lounge afloat. The popularity of blues and jazz has faded, replaced by the electric guitar and the new R&B sound. Its once local clientele, namely servicemen and cotton pickers, are kicking up their heels and spending their paychecks at the competing club, which only jumps to the beat of the jukebox instead of to live music. The Honeydripper Lounge is empty. And there’s no money left. With the rent due plus the whisky supplier no longer granting credit, Tyrone figures his only hope involves luring the famous Guitar Sam to his club. However, he’s soon forced to resort to a back-up plan.

Meanwhile, after hopping a freight train, Sonny (Gary Clark, Jr.) strolls into town, straddling a homemade electric guitar and carrying an amplifier on his back. Tyrone figures he’s just a no-talent boy looking for work. Also, what is this funny-looking guitar with no hole in the middle? After feeding the hungry young man, Tyrone sends him on his way -- but a stranger wandering into town will soon be picked up for vagrancy by the white sheriff (Stacy Keach).

Honeydripper, inspired by director John Sayles’s own short story “Keeping Time,” is riveting. Its tight story line boasts numerous subplots: secular music versus religious values, ethics versus survival, as well as issues of race and class. Unbeknownst to the audience -- as well as to the characters -- certain adversaries turn into crucial partners. Though we’re shown life in the segregated South, this film escapes the grim realities with massive doses of humor. Most of all, it’s about the music -- namely rural blues making way for a new urban sound.

The cast is superb. Along with Glover, Keach, and a laundry list of talented supporting actors and musicians, Lisa Gay Hamilton shines as Tyrone’s wife, Delilah. She struggles with the decision either to support her husband and the club (i.e. “sin”) or to follow a life of God. Charles S. Dutton stands out as Maceo, Tyrone’s supportive partner. However, the most memorable performance for me is by blues singer/guitarist Keb’ Mo’, who plays Possum, the town’s blind bluesman, whose wisdom challenges Tyrone’s conscience. I’m also hoping to see and hear more of the captivating 19-year-old Texas guitarist, Gary Clark, Jr.

After sitting through countless forgettable movies this season, I found Honeydripper a welcome change. Fortunately, it’s available this month (June 24) on DVD. A unique and memorable film, this is a must-see for music lovers.

(Released by Universal Studios and rated “PG-13” for brief violence and some suggestive material.)

Review also posted at .

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