Sweet & Lowdown

"Good"

Sweet & Lowdown Review


Every time Woody Allen miscalculates and makes a movie as weak as last year's "Celebrity," I start to wonder if he's down for the count. I should know better.

Once again, Allen has come roaring back with "Sweet and Lowdown," a buoyant, saucy and deftly original faux documentary that purports to be about a fictitious jazz guitar legend named Emmett Ray (Sean Penn).

According to the old-timer radio jocks and jazz historians (writer-director Allen among them) that populate the movie's modern interview interludes, Emmett was a neurotic (no, really?), weasely egoist of a 1930s lounge lizard louse, whose curt and cocky facade barely masked a belly full of wild insecurities, the main one being that he was the world's second greatest jazz guitarist.

As the "documentary" gives way to the fictional narrative, Penn brings Emmett to life in a piquant, pappy performance, so joyful of this plucky music that his eyelids flutter and his knees dance when he plays -- and so naked in his vulnerabilities that, like all Woody Allen best heroes, he becomes sad and sympathetic in spite of being a royal cad.

Immodest ("They say I'm a great lover."), ill-mannered and misogynistic, he nonetheless goes to pieces whenever he hears the music of his rival, his torment, his god, Django Reinhardt (a real, legendary '30s guitarist), and it exposes his human underbelly. The two times he came face to face with Django, Emmett fainted.

Of course, Allen says in one of his interview segments, "Like all Emmett Ray stories, you never know what's true and what's exaggerated."

Some of those stories include yarns about Emmett's tendency to live beyond his means (he has a jones for expensive rumble-seat convertibles), his dashed dreams of Hollywood recognition, his perverted fixation with shooting rats at the dump to get his jollies, and his brief marriage to a sassy, vampy, Marlene Dietrich-Algonquin Roundtable wannabe (Uma Thurman), who amuses herself by digging around in Emmett's neuroses. ("You keep your emotions all bottled up," she complains. To which Emmett replies, "You say that like it's a bad thing!")

Inspired by Allen's adoration for the '30s jazz scene, "Sweet and Lowdown" is his most effortlessly enjoyable comedy in ages. Penn's performance as the arbitrary Emmett Ray is impeccable. Even the often austere Thurman gives one of her most warm-blooded performances (although Allen should have dropped her bombastic voice over).

But the real revelation of "Sweet and Lowdown" is the wonderfully moody and expressive performance of Samantha Morton (Harriet in PBS's "Emma" import) as the mousy, malleable laundress Emmett becomes attached to in spite of himself.

Morton is a sweet, shy, grinning innocent in her role as Hattie, a girl that is everything an insecure egomaniac needs -- a little simple, completely smitten, a born doormat, and mute.

Yet in that irrepressible Woody Allen way, she still manages to frustrate Emmett no end.

Morton is the movie's heart, and as soon as the credits roll, you'll be dying to see more of her.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Benny Goodman as Himself, as Trudy Wilson, as Popsy

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.