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Honkytonk Man

Honkytonk Man (1982)

December. 15,1982
| Drama Music

During the Great Depression, a young boy leaves his family's Oklahoma farm to travel with his country musician uncle who is trying out for the Grand Ole Opry.


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Clint Eastwood's 'Honkytonk Man' remains one of his most underrated works. Critics had rejected it. The film came out at a time when movies about glamour, adventure, boxing and organized crime took over Hollywood and as such, there was little place for a small film like 'Honkytonk Man'. This film is about wanting more than what life currently has to offer. It's about wanting to do something, to become something, that would actually make life worth living. This theme is also echoed in Eastwood's 'The Bridges of Madison County' where young housewife who had been living a monotonous life finds love and passion with a traveller.In a way, 'Honkytonk Man' is a road movie but not the conventional kind. Here the focus is not on the journey the characters make to Nashville but on Red's last chance to reach for the sky and on Hoss's growing up. The bond Red and his nephew is also depicted in an unconventional nature that is both endearing and even arguably abusive.On the technical side, the execution is minimal. The cinematography is adequate and music is efficiently used. The sets, especially the landscapes, are beautiful but they don't dominate or intrude on the scenes. Lighting is underused stressing on the darkness of the main theme.Eastwood sublimely plays one of his most vulnerable characters. He also shows a keen liking towards country music. Kyle Eastwood wonderfully downplays Hoss as the naive teenager who, seduced by his uncle's music and independence, finally sees an opportunity out of cotton picking. Alexa Kenin is vivacious as the talentless aspiring singer who seizes her ticket to independence.'Honyktonk Man' isn't without its share of flaws (the pacing is slow at times and many of the subplots appear contrived) but it works very well as a study of relationships, of characters and of growing up. In the end, it feels like a sad poem but not a hopeless one.


One of Clint Eastwood's more personal projects is Honkytonk Man where he both gets to do some singing and also to work with his then adolescent son Kyle. Apparently Kyle Eastwood has inherited the musical part of the Eastwood genes because he makes his living now as a jazz musician. I wonder if he ever jams with Woody Allen?Clint did not exactly set the world on fire in his previous musical outing in Paint Your Wagon. But in Honky Tonk Man he's right in his element as a hard living country singer during the Depression trying to finally catch a break with the Grand Ole Opry.Arriving at his sister's farm, Clint picks up both Kyle who is playing his nephew here and John McIntire who is Kyle's grandfather on his father's side and the three generations start out from Oklahoma to Nashville.Eastwood has played some hard bitten characters in his films, but never one as dissolute as Red Stovall. His high living has brought him a case of tuberculosis, a lot more common and a lot less curable back in those days. In any event the peace and quiet of a sanitarium holds no interest for Clint. He'd rather go out drinking and wenching than die of boredom in a sanitarium.Of course the odyssey of the three bring any number of adventures about life and love in their lives.John McIntire fits right in with the father and son Eastwoods. Also look for good performances by blues singer Linda Hopkins, young Alexa Kenan who hitches a ride with the travelers, and a cheating Barry Corbin who Clint collects from in the usual Eastwood manner. All and all a nice family project from the clan Eastwood.


Honkytonk: a cheap disreputable nightclub or dance hall.This is part of a 3-for-1 DVD set of Eastwood "B" movies.Clint Eastwood is Red Stovall, a drunkard who writes songs and sings country, with an ambition to become famous. His co-star here is his own son, 15-year-old Kyle Eastwood as his nephew Whit. After setting up the premise, most of the movie becomes a road trip with Whit driving, and the two of them making their best efforts to get to Memphis without money, and with a car prone to breaking down.I found it mildly enjoyable, but certainly not one of the better Clint Eastwood movies. I was surprised that he has a rather pleasant singing voice, although a bit soft, not very powerful.It was good seeing Barry Corbin, 'Maurice' of "Northern Exposure."SPOILERS. Red was also sick, apparently suffering from TB. When he would sing too much, he would start coughing and spit up blood. Before he died, he made it to Memphis, where a studio recorded all his songs. He may have become famous after he died.

Alan Evans

As soon as I saw this movie I knew that the critics wouldn't like it. The characters are too real and don't have issues like creating great art. Instead they are all slightly offbeat in an ordinary sort of way.What appealed to me was how they survived in the Depression. There is a mental toughness in the characters that I couldn't help but admire. They don't have any sophistication but above all they come across as very real.The film has a real sensitivity and shows the ups and downs of ordinary people.For me it was a real winner.