Cotton Pickin' Blues
"Honeydripper" is set in 1950 Alabama a crossroads in time when music was changing and so was society but whilst both play a part in this story it is not the focus. Nope "Honeydripper" is a very simple movie with a simple storyline about a man who owns club which is going under and his attempt to keep it going. Except whilst that is the vehicle the truth is that "Honeydripper" is about characters, lots of characters both big and small who along with a great setting and some wonderful music create a compelling drama.
Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis (Danny Glover - Shooter) owns the Honeydripper a small club in Harmony, Alabama and it is getting smaller as a rival club is attracting the younger crowd leaving Tyrone is debt and desperately trying to keep it going. In one last desperate attempt he tries to bring the famous Guitar Sam to town in the hope that one night of Sam will save the club. At the same time Sonny (Gary Clark Jr.) arrives in town carrying a guitar case and finds himself arrested and forced to work in the cotton fields by the racist sheriff. Tyrone's desperate situation leads him to Sonny when he comes up with a fresh plan to save the club when Sam lets him down.
If you were to take "Honeydripper" down to the basic storyline it is surprisingly nothing more than the "let's put on a show to save the club" theme. And as such I have to say that when it comes to the big night and whether or not things go as planned for Tyrone or even better it does edge towards the corny, something which is typical of movies which use this theme.
But then in a strange way "Honeydripper" isn't about whether or not Tyrone manages to save the club but all the characters and who they are starting with Tyrone himself who thanks to something in his past makes him a slightly damaged figure. Then there is his wife Delilah who is on the verge of finding religion which if she does will end up disapproving of his way of life. I could go on because this is a movie of characters from Tyrone's right hand man Maceo to his daughter China Doll and Sonny who shows up carrying the guitar case. But most interesting is Sheriff Pugh because on one hand he is a racist, but he isn't evil more of a businessman who is after what he can get. It means that whilst we do have a racial aspect to the movie it is not the extreme element often seen in this sort of movie which takes us back in time.
Now the thing is the characters don't stop their because even the smallest of parts such as the old saxophone player who probably gets less than a minute of screen time delivers so much character. This level of characterisation combined with some great settings and unsurprisingly good soundtrack makes "Honeydripper" compelling and you don't want to miss a minute despite not having any real excitement or action. It is credit to director John Mayes and the actors that this character driven drama works because one misfire and it would have fallen flat.
What this all boils down to is that "Honeydripper" is a well made character driven drama which takes a familiar story but makes it feel real by giving us lots of multi-dimensional characters who are all interesting even those who have little to do.