Saturday, February 11, 2017

Honeysuckle Rose

Sometimes an otherwise average movie gets an Oscar nominations for one of its original songs. A good example of this is Honeysuckle Rose, which will be airing on TCM on Sunday at 2:45 PM.

The movie opens up with a concert bus going down the road, and the Willie Nelson song "On the Road Again" playing. That's the song that was Oscar-nominated, and it absolutely fits what the movie is all about. Willie Nelson himself stars, as Buck Bonham. Buck is a country musician with a backing band of people who have been with him for quite some time. One of them, old Garland Ramsey (Slim Pickens), is to the point where he wants to retire and spend more time with his family.

Garland isn't the only one who wants the family to be together more. Buck's wife Viv (Dyan Cannon) is thrilled to have her husband back home, and unhappy that it's only going to be for a couple of weeks before Buck goes out on tour with the band again. The two have a son who also misses Dad. And Viv going out on tour with the band is out of the question; apparently she tried that in the past and can't hack that lifestyle. Further complicating matters is that their son feels he just doesn't have Dad's musical gift and he's almost letting Dad down by not having it.

Back to Garland's family. He's got a daughter Lily (Amy Irving), who is back for the summer from college, and who clearly does have the musical gift. Buck is able to hire somebody to replace Garland, but the replacement is going to have to miss the first couple of weeks of the new tour. Viv comes up with a brilliant idea: why not have Lily fill in for those few weeks, since she's home from college and the band needs a short-term replacement?

You can guess what happens, especially since Viv has already asked Buck if he sleeps with other women when he's out on tour. Not that she's happy with it, but she's grown up enough to know that adults do have sex drives. And once Lily winds up with the band -- and especially after she and Buck are the last two not partying one night -- it's obvious that Lily and Buck are going to wind up with a relationship that's more than platonic.

Honeysuckle Rose comes across, to me, as a movie that's really treading no new ground. It's not a bad movie, and I wouldn't say it's unoriginal; it's more that it feels like it's telling a story about a part of the human experience that we all already know. Successful person finds it's lonely at the top (even though Buck really isn't at the top per se), finds someone new to share the loneliness with, and it screws up the rest of his relationships. The other problem is that the film has a very leisurely pace, taking nearly two hours to tell a story it probably could have told easily in 90 minutes.

Somehow I don't think Willie Nelson ever would have had much range if he tried to become a real actor, but he's not being asked to play anything that has much more range than being himself, so he pulls it off with no problems. Cannon and Irving are both good too. And of course there's "On the Road Again" which has become a standard.

One other really nice thing about the movie is that it tells its story in the context of a culture that doesn't get much screen time in an authentic way, that of rural Texas. Hollywood's portrayals of the state always seem to me to veer more toward the stereotype that Gary Cooper claims is not real in It's a Big Country, while the party scenes that cover a good half hour early in the movie seem at times almost like documentary footage. These extras seem real in a way that Hollywood never captures.

No comments: