HONEYDRIPPER strolled in with little fanfare in 2007 and went un-noticed by audiences (the $5,000,000 Americana period piece trickled $268,000 in its home country). Y’all missed out, as the 16th feature from the great John Sayles is another of his sharp character arrays, carving one more tasty slice out of the great American pie he’s been dissecting since 1979, when he wrote the script for Return Of The Secaucus Seven.
This time he hones in on a ‘colored’ juke joint in 1950 Alabama. The blues n’ booze lounge run by ‘Tyrone “Pine Top” Purvis’ (Danny Glover) is destined to be shut down unless he can pay his debts by luring crowds away from his competitor. It strikes the chord of Big Night, in a music-suffused Southern fried manner.
Touching on civil rights, the changing music scene and rural folk ways, peppered with neat bits from a salty cast, it’s not four-star Sayles like Sunshine State, Silver City or Lone Star, but it comfortably rates a berth next to fine efforts like Passion Fish or Eight Men Out.
Great music, some humor and drama, a neat sense of period, with able work from Lisa Gay Hamilton, Vondie Curtis Hall (always a pleasure), Charles S. Dutton, Stacy Keach (in slimy sheriff mode, but smartly not overdone), Yaya DaCosta (oh, baby) and Gary Clarke, Jr. (the guitarist cavalry).
123 minutes, with Mable John, Ruben-Santiago Hudson, Keb Mo, Kai Mitchell and a look-in from Mary Steenburgen. Leisurely paced, and that’s just fine.