Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Woody Allen

Production Budget: $29.7 million
Worldwide Gross: $4 million

Sweet and Lowdown is a mockumentary about Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) who is a jazz guitarist in the 1930’s who was considered the second best jazz guitarist (first being Django Reinhardt). Many wild stories are told about Ray and we also learn about him falling in love with a mute (played by Samantha Morton).

This review may be really short but that is becuase my feelings are rather simple on it. This movie is absolutely carried by the performance of Sean Penn. Emmet Ray could have easily been a despicable character portrayed by most anyone else. Penn perfectly plays Ray as both a selfish prick, but also someone who is charming and slightly vulnerable. He also has to play the balancing act of being wildly over the top for the comic scenes, but at the same time make the dramatic scenes believable without giving the audience tonal whiplash.

The performances of Penn and also Morton (who gives a charming silent performance), elevate this movie from just a good movie in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, the production is good. Allen does have a good sense of nostalgia as you get the feelings Allen probably gets with the time and the music. The writing and the overal story is also written well. I guess this is where some Allen fatigue sets in as I say the problem is I’ve seen the nostalgia and themes before. I’ll cover this later in my next review, but this is where seeing about 30 Allen films in a short time takes its toll. I will freely admit I would like this a lot more if this had been one of my firsts as opposed to being this late in the game.

Sweet and Lowdown is a sweet little movie. It is one of Allen’s most popular now and it is easy to see why. It is completely inoffensive and fun nostalgia trip which is carried by one of the best performances in an Allen movie ever. The rest of the movie is good, but they don’t quite feel on par with some of Allen’s true masterpieces. This is a movie I want to revisit down the road when my batteries are recharged and some of the elements don’t seem so stale. For now I liked this film, but I didn’t love it.


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