Eye For Film >> Movies >> Sweet And Lowdown (1999) Film Review
Sweet And Lowdown
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Woody Allen enters the realm of the imaginary biopic with deadpan seriousness, forsaking his beloved New York for jazz dives and hotel rooms.
Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) is a bit of a mystery. Allen and a select group of talking heads attempt to piece together the contradictions in his mercurial life.
He emerged from the back woods during the Swing era. Some said he was as good as Django Reinhardt, others that he might have been better, if things had worked out different. Playing with barroom combos in obscure out-of-town clubs, word of his guitar playing remained a guarded secret.
As so often with jazz luminaries, he was his own worst enemy, drinking, gambling, playing pool. He liked nothing better than spending time at the city dump shooting rats. Also, he watched trains, loved the sound of freight cars as they passed. He took girls to the dump and the railroad track and wondered why they wanted to leave.
He wore a white suit. "I'm not the marrying kind," he said. "I can't settle." He settled with a simple-minded mute (Samantha Morton), who worked at the laundry, and later married a socialite (Uma Thurman), who flirted with the idea of being a writer. "They had only one thing in common," Allen recalls. "Clothes."
The nostalgic delight of this movie is due partly to Santo Loquasto's production design and Laura Cunningham Bauer's costumes, both of which are outstanding. The heart and soul of Ray's creation and the world he inhabits comes from Allen's knowledge and love of jazz.
Penn is inspirational, unrecognisable, untouchable. As an actor, he has never stuck to a groove, nor courted the star system. With this performance, he leaps into the Robert De Niro class, where only the likes of Robert Duvall are allowed through the door. Those who suffered Hurly Burly know how great he can be. Those who didn't, should give themselves a treat and check out the Emmet Ray experience.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001