Movie Review: Honeydripper

Directed, Written and Edited by: John Sayles

Starring: Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Yaya DaCosta (pictured), Lisa Gay Hamilton

and introducing Gary Clark, Jr.

Supporting cast includes: Eric Abrams, Kel Mitchell, Ruben

Santiago-Hudson, Davenia McFadden, Vondie Curtis Hall and Sean Patrick Thomas

  “It was early Friday evening, and the howl began to bark.

Stack O’ Lee and me was squabbling in the dark.

First he took all my money then he spit on my Stetson hat,

Stack O’ Lee told me a lie. Oh, what do you think about


— from “Stack O’ Lee”  performed by Keb Mo’ in the motion picture Honeydripper


“I always hated that damn song,”

says husband and father Tyrone Purvis, answering his visual sub-conscience in

the deliciously wholesome independent period film Honeydripper.


Never a truer phrase has been

spoken in this cinematic treasure set in 1950 Harmony, Alabama.  Songs have lots of talking to do, especially

to a man who is experiencing hard times. And things are hard for a juke joint owner and old time piano player,

portrayed beautifully by veteran actor Danny Glover.


The film’s plot is rooted around

one weekend that will either save or kill him. Unlike other weekends, he’ll

lie, steal and almost cheat to keep his head above water and extend the life of

his dream for ownership. Although it’s set over 50 years ago, Honeydripper keeps it real to all of us

who understand struggle.


The mixture of a great supporting

cast, moving musical score and the unrelenting drive to succeed are all present

and make Honeydripper a must see

classic. However, the powerful performances, poetic portrayal of Alabama heat

in the summer and do-or-die attitude make this film the heavyweight champion of

2008, thus far.


If the proof of lasting power is

in the acting and scenery, then Honeydripper

is on my A-list.


The American dream pursuit story

is engaging. Down on his luck due to debt and a lifetime of bad decisions,

music man Tyrone could really use a break. His club has a lousy act, no patrons

and an outdated ambiance. The spot across the way is hyped with flash,

synthetic sounds and plenty of liquor.


With a little help of his friend

Maceo (Charles S. Dutton), his wife Delilah (Lisa Gay Hamilton), his daughter

China Doll (Yaya DaCosta) and a stranger, Sonny Blake (Gary Clark, Jr.), who is

also electric; Tyrone concocts a one-night-only get rich scheme. Mounting

pressures from debt collectors, sickness and modern music-making devises bring

things to a head. Tyrone and his juke joint eat at his family life, which

results in tragic consequences.


John Sayles’ adaptation of America’s

deep south is slower and lazier than it is passionate and heated. Although the

live performances in this film are a charging sight, it is no substitute for R-rated

sex. You won’t find any in this movie.


Danny Glover successfully portrays

Tyrone in a James Evan-esque vein, working his plan from upstanding husband to

convincing hustler with everything to lose. But it is his wife, Delilah played

by Lisa Gay Hamilton with her “married-to-the-game” demeanor and brewing fire

that steals the show. Both actors create a comfortable yet jarring narrative

that allows you wholly to believe and relate to the characters. You want them

to win.


Honeydripper could be a

classic. For its status as one of 2008’s first painfully independent films, the

efforts to get it to movie screens for the American masses should be applauded. The official release date has been moved a

couple of times as the screenings and limited release showings creep

across the nation, but according to it’s looking like an April

release now.

Regardless of the quality of the

acting and the power of the musical themes, if there’s no audience at the

theatres, this gem will go unnoticed. If you fancy some glorious Technicolor

and great acting, go and watch Honeydripper

when it hits your town – even if only to see YaYa DaCosta light up the screen.

Related Stories