Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

Synopsis:

Country star Willie Nelson plays — here comes a big surprise — a country star who has trouble letting go of drugs and groupies, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife (Dyan Cannon, Heaven Can Wait). The arrival of an aspiring singer (Amy Irving, Yentl) complicates the lives of the troubled couple even further.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Fans of classic Hollywood will quickly realize that Honeysuckle Rose, directed by Jerry Schatzberg (The Panic in Needle Park and The Seduction of Joe Tynan), is nothing but an unauthorized remake of David O. Selznick’s 1939 classic weepie Intermezzo (with Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman), but there are many reasons why this semi-remake doesn’t work as well as the beloved oldie.

After Willie Nelson made his screen debut in the romantic comedy The Electric Horseman (1979), someone came up with the idea of creating a star vehicle for the musician. Honeysuckle Rose is the result of much brainstorming. The script is credited to a bunch of writers — John Binder, Gustaf Molander, Carol Sobieski, Gösta Stevens, William D. Wittliff — and this is always a sign of trouble.

Nelson is a natural actor, I’ll give him that. The famous singer also has charm to burn. Unfortunately, his first starring role in a major Hollywood production is a tedious collection of clichéd vignettes sprung together by a potpourri of (mostly excellent) songs.

I know nothing about country music so I can’t attest to the authenticity of the film’s music atmosphere. I’m sure Nelson helped keep things real. The country music star essentially plays himself — in a curious case of life-imitates-art, the married singer allegedly had an affair with co-star Amy Irving during the making of the movie.

Irving and Dyan Cannon have nice singing voices, but they do seem out-of-place in Hickville. Slim Pickens (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love), whose redneckish persona is perfect for the film, is much better as Nelson’s old business partner. Priscilla Pointer (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), Irving’s real-life mother, plays her mother in the film.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Despite the talented cast, Honeysuckle Rose is a dud. Nelson does, however, get to introduce his signature song ‘On the Road.’ The hugely popular tune was nominated for an Oscar. Color, 119 minutes, Rated PG.

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