A comedic biopic focused on the life of fictional jazz guitarist Emmett Ray. Ray was an irresponsible, free-spending, arrogant, obnoxious, alcohol-abusing, miserable human being, who was also arguably the best guitarist in the world. We follow Ray's life: bouts of getting drunk, his bizzare hobbies of shooting rats and watching passing trains, his dreams of fame and fortune, his strange obsession with the better-known guitarist Django Reinhardt, and of course, playing his beautiful music. Written by
Martin Lewison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When he arrives at the train station with Ellie, Emmet stops the car just in time to avoid slamming into a utility pole. When they get out of the car a second later, the pole is not there any more. See more »
What do you think of when you play? What goes through your mind?
Yeah, that I'm underpaid. I think about that sometimes.
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The first essential Woody Allen film in a long time.
Sean Penn plays Emmett Ray, a little-known jazz guitarist, an eccentric, egocentric genius self-proclaimed as the "greatest guitar player in the country" or the "second greatest guitar player in the world" - because of that gypsy from France, the bane of his life, Django Reinhardt. The story of Sweet and Lowdown is the story of Emmett and the girl he first describes as "the little one with the silly hat," who is also, incidentally, called Hattie. There is something so special and memorable about the chemistry between Hattie and Emmett. Hattie is perfect for Emmett, because she's mute, and therefore he can sound off all day about how great he is, and she's the one person who won't contradict him.
Woody has the knack of making highly watchable movies - and popping them out one a year. There is a continuity across them all, yet they all seem somewhat unique. Sweet and Lowdown stands heads and shoulders above every other film Woody has made since Husbands and Wives. With Sweet and Lowdown, Woody reminds us why we loved him in the first place
yet i'm not sure i can think of another Woody film that's as genuine,
beautiful and moving, yet eccentric and funny at the same time. Annie Hall was probably as touching, but with Woody is no actor next to Penn, which i think makes an incredible difference! Penn brings to life a character so eccentric and unbelievable, yet we never doubt him, we never feel he's not a total human being.
Penn's performance is counterbalanced by another equally moving performance by Samantha Morton as Hattie. Often you'll find yourself watching a two-shot with the both of them on screen, and you won't be able to decide which character you're more curious to watch. More often than not, you'll watch Samantha Morton, to see what Hattie is thinking and feeling. An extraordinary job by an extraordinarily talented actress you may have seen as the mother in In America or the pre-cog Agatha in Minority report.
The one fault in the film is Uma Thurman - she is badly miscast and clearly only suited to intentionally hammy fodder like Kill Bill. Her character, Blanche, is great ("Okay, so i slept with him, but i was just researching a book!"), which makes it more the shame that Thurman speaks her line like she thinks this is a cartoon or a Tarantino movie. The audience will only accept the eccentricity of this style if the performances are genuine: she gets an F. She pops the bubble of this movie. When she appears, we suddenly realise its only a movie, and the spell is broken. Nevertheless, she's only in a relatively small portion of the film, and she can't bring down the rest of it.
Sweet and Lowdown has the feeling of telling you a tale, and it spins some great fun yarns about little-known jazz guitarist Emmett Ray. Penn and Morton bring to life an incredible couple of characters - two of Woody's best creations. Well designed with nice period costumes and well directed, especially the magestic final crane shot (a reference to La Strada i believe). The story is beautifully punctuated with scintillating jazz music by Dick Hyman and others.
"Come listen," Emmett tells someone at one point, "you'll love this, i'm great."
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