Sweet And Lowdown

Woody Allen's least perfunctory film in years is also the first since BULLETS OVER BROADWAY to escape contemporary New York and Allen's usual neurotic, Upper-East-Side navel gazers. Affectionate, melancholy and anchored by a well thought-out performance from Sean Penn, it purports to look at the life and legend of an obscure jazz musician named Emmet Ray...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Woody Allen's least perfunctory film in years is also the first since BULLETS OVER BROADWAY to escape contemporary New York and Allen's usual neurotic, Upper-East-Side navel gazers. Affectionate, melancholy and anchored by a well thought-out performance from

Sean Penn, it purports to look at the life and legend of an obscure jazz musician named Emmet Ray (Penn). Allen, jazz historian Nat Hentoff and other experts appear periodically, speaking to an unseen interviewer about the fictitious Ray, a prodigiously talented guitarist second only to authentic

jazz idol Django Reinhardt. But Allen doesn't force the mockumentary issue; the talking heads mostly serve as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the less-than-certain facts of Ray's life. His fanciful story begins in a mobbed-up nightclub and ends in a railway yard; in between there are

gangsters, swanky soirees, love affairs, opium dens, chorus girls, after-hours jam sessions and even a trip to Hollywood, the kind of tantalizing, glittering snippets that swirl around all legendary artists. At the heart of the Ray legend are two loves: Django Reinhardt, whose music moved Ray to

tears (everyone's heard that when Ray came face to face with Reinhardt he fainted dead away), and Hattie (Samantha Morton), the mute laundress whom he abandoned at the height of his success. Working with Allen seems to awe many actors to such a degree that they forget to actually act. Not so Penn,

who imagines Ray as a selfish, insecure, childish popinjay whose only redeeming quality is his undeniable talent. With his mingy moustache and shifty eyes, scuttling down the street as though his flashy shoes are a little too tight, Penn's Ray is simultaneously pathetic and despicable; but when he

plays, some unsuspected inner goodness seems to trickle out through his fingers.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Woody Allen's least perfunctory film in years is also the first since BULLETS OVER BROADWAY to escape contemporary New York and Allen's usual neurotic, Upper-East-Side navel gazers. Affectionate, melancholy and anchored by a well thought-out performance fr… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »