Honkytonk Man

1982 tuberculosis public service announcement

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Red crashes onto his sister's dust-caked Oklahoma property, a Grand Ole Opry invitation in one hand and a bottle in the other. His 14-year-old nephew Whit looks up to him and is a much better driver, and his mother reluctantly allows him to accompany Red on his trip to Nashville. They misbehave along the way.

This movie's covered in a layer of dust, like all good Depression-era flicks should be. And it's filled with all sorts of dusty eccentrics, colorful character after colorful character. They're not entirely believable (neither is Clint's honkytonk man exactly), but they're entertaining enough, especially when they talk about panther piss, folks who've got money "ten miles up a mule's ass," and dogs shittin' peach pits. My favorite line's right at the beginning when Red tumbles out of the car he's just driven onto the Waggoneer farm and his sister drawls, "Is he dead?" This is one of those meandering, stream-of-conscious road movies, and it's also a pretty good buddy movie. The buddy is Eastwood's son, and their rapport naturally drives the picture. It's fun watching Eastwood and son steal chickens, rob poker players, drink, and visit whores. A subtitle for this could have been Honkytonk Men Gone Bad. There's an ease in the direction and writing that almost makes things look kind of lazy, and this is a story that's been done and done again and one that will undoubtedly be done again and again in the future (see: Crazy Heart). Like Bad Blake, I'm the songwriting and Eastwood's singing voice aren't totally convincing. The songs are OK and his voice is OK, but there's nothing that makes me think Red should have been a legend. This stands out most when Red, in the recording studio, becomes too sick to finish a song. Marty Robbins grabs the microphone and finishes for him, and completely blows him away. That's a nice moment actually. I did enjoy watching Clint tickle the ivories or pick his guitar though. Honkytonk Man's an example of a movie with a lot of good pieces, but sort of like the poster up there, it just doesn't seem complete.

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