starring Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stacy Keach
written and directed by John Sayles
starring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams
screenplay by Ira Sachs & Oren Moverman, based on the novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham
directed by Ira Sachs
by Walter Chaw As a huge admirer of John Sayles's middle-period body of work--a period marked by such pictures as Matewan, Eight Men Out, and Lone Star (still my pick for the best American film of the Nineties)--it pains me to look at something like Honeydripper and recognize in it everything I like about Sayles side-by-side with everything that's fast making him irrelevant. He's got a common touch, no question, something forged in the time he spent rolling up his sleeves, joining labour unions, hitchhiking across the country, and writing vital, committed novels about it all. Was a time his gift for how ordinary people talked and thought translated into definitive statements about the United States; now it seems that all he uses it for is passing, fleeting music in otherwise earthbound productions. Passion Fish is extraordinary in its effortlessness; Honeydripper is likewise effortless, but it lacks brio, and, more so than any of Sayles's films before it, it doesn't have one single reason for existing. Even flat, incontestable disasters like Silver City had going for it that Sayles-ian liberal dementia, and it boasted a performance in which long-time collaborator Chris Cooper hilariously channelled George W.'s reptilian, dangerous/dull political vacuum. Hold up Honeydripper to the least of Sayles's pictures and discover that what he's learned about craft remains while that indigent fire has apparently guttered to wax and ash. Pointedly, at a period in our country where it seems that some of the activism Sayles has spent much of his art trying to drum up has finally begun to manifest itself in voter-turnout among the young, Sayles has produced his most flaccid, middling film. Maybe this is the contented corncob pipe after a hard day in the fields.