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

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

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.