Sweet and Lowdown (1999)


Comedy | Drama | Music





Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Anthony LaPaglia, Uma Thurman, James Urbaniak, John Waters, Gretchen Mol, Denis O'Hare, Molly Price, Brian Markinson, Tony Darrow, Daniel Okrent, Brad Garrett, Woody Allen, Ben Duncan, Nat Hentoff, Douglas McGrath


In the 1930s, jazz guitarist Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) idolizes Django Reinhardt, faces gangsters and falls in love with a mute woman (Samantha Morton).


After "Celebrity", which I considered a disappointment, Allen returns with "Sweet and Lowdown", a quite charming, funny and moving film.

Woody Allen is so good at storytelling he can do what the heck he wants. He indeed mixes documentary-style comments with the characters and the story in a very skillful manner. He is so good at that he actually makes you believe Emmet Ray is a real person when he's actually a completely fictitious character. Also, Allen himself is one of the storytellers of this "documentary". How genius is that?

The film is also an excellent character study. Self-proclaimed second best jazz guitarist in the world,  Emmet Ray is both a genius and a fool, because he has a great talent but he doesn't seem to realise its value and takes advantage of his talent in a childish manner. Also, only when alone he will realise how important love is, and that music is nothing if there isn't someone listening to it.

The other mention-worthy character is Hattie, the mute girl Ray falls in love with. She is sweet and adorable and pretty much the film is just like her. At first it seems light and lacking of any drama but it eventually finds its solidity.

The score is great, which is not really a news for a Woody Allen film, and the cinematography is beautiful as well.

Sean Penn gives a wonderful performance as self-centered Emmet Ray and proves he can act. Equally powerful and moving - maybe even more - is Samantha Morton's performance as Hattie. Uma Thurman though was miscast in my opinion: while the character is quite interesting, she is just not the right woman to play it.

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