Honeydripper (PG)

Written and directed by John Sayles
Screening at FACT from 30th May – 5th June 2008

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The blues music featured in this film, which is set in Alabama in 1950, is scintillating, but the same can’t be said of the plodding storyline and stereotypical characterisations.

One of the low points was the portrayal of prisoners picking cotton - some of them wore pristine white clothes - which showed some of the pickers playing cards while redneck guards patrolled the fields with rifles in their hands. The director John Sayles, who also wrote and edited Honeydripper, perhaps needed to be informed about the appalling conditions these suppressed black people were subjected to at this period in America's history.

Danny Glover takes the lead part in the movie, portraying Tyrone Purvis, the owner of a music club which has seen better days, located in a sleepy outback called Harmony. Virtually no one bothers anymore to attend the traditional blues sessions held there.

But his fortunes are revived when he enlists ace young electric blues guitarist Sonny Blake (Gary Clark Jr), who draws the crowds back to the club, impersonating Guitar Sam, who is a big hit on the radio.

One of the endearing aspects of Honeydripper is the mysterious presence of blind guitarist Possum (as Keb' Mo'), who in some ways is a ghost-like figure, appearing unexpectedly at times, as if he is a figment of imagination. He adds a fable-like charm to the film, and his guitar picking is exemplary.

It's a pity that this charm and true-to-life portrayal was not present in the other characters featured in this hit and miss movie.

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