The story of the second greatest jazz guitarist of all time.
Running Time: 95 minutes
UK Certificate: PG
Country: United States
1930s jazz musician Emmet Ray was a drunk, a kleptomaniac, a pimp, a loudmouth, a womaniser, and one helluva guitar plucker. He was also completely fictional, dreamt up by writer-director Woody Allen for the purposes of this dramatised mockumentary.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the Woodsters habit of starring in his own films and his well-documented love of the jazz scene (1997s Wild Man Blues followed him and his New Orleans pub band as they traipsed around the concert halls of Europe), he resists the temptation to play Emmet himself. Instead, he pops up only occasionally in talking head mode, and leaves the front man duties to Sean Penn.
Penn, it has to be said, is perfect in the role, injecting both humour and thoughtfulness into this troubled character. Also on good form is Uma Thurman, who plays her part with tongue firmly in cheek as she beds and weds our protagonist before developing the hubba-hubbas for Anthony LaPaglias knuckle-dragging bouncer. But if theres one cast member youre likely to remember this for, its Samantha Morton, who manages to outshine each of her co-stars without uttering as much as a single line of dialogue. Shes Hattie, the mute simpleton who becomes Rays one love against his will, and the subtlety of her performance is a joy to behold (in fact, both her and Penn received Oscar noms for this one).
If Sweet and Lowdown has one major fault its that the story just isnt strong enough to fill its 95 minutes. Yes, its quirky and funny, but its also a bit of a one trick pony and by the time weve seen Ray take a THIRD ladyfriend to watch trains and/or shoot rats at the dump (the old romantic), its grown a bit of a beard. Fortunately, the strong performances, nicely-underplayed humour and of course the music make this a likeable film to take in. Its not a classic, but its a nice way to pass the time.
It's Got: A talent show featuring a bloke twanging a saw, a chubby woman singing, and a guy who can make owl noises (actually, that last ones quite impressive).
It Needs: Some stronger plot developments.
DVD Extras Talent files and a theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10
Alternatives:Paper Moon, Wild Man Blues
Like jazz? Like Woody Allen? Like stuff thats quite good? Then youll probably like Sweet and Lowdown.