In John Sayles’s vision of small-town Alabama circa 1950, a young wanderer has to stop and ask, “Hey man, what side of the tracks am I on?” He isn’t behaving preposterously; amidst the distressed wood and self-conscious metal junk blanketing the sets of Honeydripper, the boy really can’t tell. Sayles’s films are generally celebrated for their leavened characterizations and authentic grit; Honeydripper, produced with a much larger bankroll than his previous work, lends credence to the notion that independents need to hover around the poverty line to produce anything substantial. As a screenwriter, Sayles is famously heavy-handed in his exposes of “social issues,” but he gets away with it by crafting good dialogue. Talking is what it’s all about; Brother from Another Planet, Lone Star, Casa de Los Babys, and Silver City are, in a sense, essay films. Sayles obviously envisions his audiences embarking on heated rap sessions after filing out of the art house, but the stiff rusticisms here are unlikely to inspire anything but snorts: “If dat ain’t true den grits ain’t groceries!” It’s bad history on a bloated budget. Click here to read Leah Churner’s review of Honeydripper.
Also: earlier, Kristi Mitsuda’s review of the film on indieWIRE.