Sweet and Lowdown Movie Review
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...