Sweet and Lowdown Movie Review

Woody Allen loves jazz. He loves jazz so much that he regularly skips the Oscars to play clarinet with his jazz combo. He talks about jazz all the time.

I love Woody Allen, really I do. I'm probably the only living critic who enjoyed Celebrity. I love jazz, too. Every Wednesday for two years, I saw a classic jazz quartet play tunes like "All of Me," "Rosetta," and "Old Man Time" in a dank cellar bar.

Woody Allen loves jazz so much he made up a guy and made a fictional documentary about him.

As it turns out, you can love a thing too much.

Emmet Ray (Penn) is a supposed wild jazzman of the 1930s. He drinks hard, pimps whores in his spare time, falls for a mute woman (Morton), has a fling with a high-society dame (Thurman), and plays a little guitar along the way.

Sounds exciting, but unfortunately the actual story is so boring and uneventful that it's hard to care about any of this. At 95 minutes, I was sure this would be light and breezy Allen fare. It was the longest hour-and-a-half of my life.

Parts of the film are great, including a moment near the finale, when three different versions of a humorous incident in Ray's life are played out. The jazz is great, but there's surprisingly little music in the film. It mainly serves as a lullaby to play while you blissfully fall asleep in your chair.

What's worse is that the structure just plain doesn't work. Allen's so-called "expert interviews" talking about Ray are intercut not with faux documentary footage, but with a regular movie. Sony is trying to quietly position Sweet and Lowdown as a "real" documentary, but this ain't no Blair Witch Project.

Instead, it's just a muddled mess, a character in search of a story, a filmmaker in search of his muse.

Fly me to the moon...


Comments

Sweet and Lowdown Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 1999

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