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Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Music  |  10 March 2000 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 26,350 users   Metascore: 70/100
Reviews: 140 user | 111 critic | 33 from

In the 1930s, fictional jazz guitarist Emmet Ray idolizes Django Reinhardt, faces gangsters and falls in love with a mute.



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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Duncan ...
A.J. Pickman
Ace - Pool Player
Hazel - Hooker #1
Iris - Hooker #2
Darryl Alan Reed ...
Steve Bargonetti ...
Musician Friend
Benjamin Franklin Brown ...
Musician Friend


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

jazz | train | rat | gangster | 1930s | See All (39) »


Comedy | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some substance abuse | See all certifications »


Official Sites:



Release Date:

10 March 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Woody Allen Fall Project 1998  »

Box Office


$29,750,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$94,686 (USA) (3 December 1999)


$13,708 (Sweden) (29 September 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"Sweet and Low-Down", by George Gershwin, is a song on the soundtrack of Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979). See more »


The guitar that Emmett destroys at the end of the movie is (thankfully) not a genuine Selmer Maccaferri. The shattered fragments clearly show a bolt-on neck. The genuine instruments used a bolt during construction, but this bolt was removed before the guitar was completed, leaving an empty hole. (The instrument actually destroyed was a disposable prop created by Michael Dunn.) See more »


Blanche: Do you get a bigger kick doing this, or stealing small objects?
See more »


Featured in 71st Golden Globe Awards (2014) See more »


I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
Lyrics by James Brockman, Nat Vincent (as Nathaniel Hawthorne Vincent),
James Kendis
Music by John W. Kellette (as John William Kellette)
Arranged by Howard Alden and Dick Hyman
Performed by Howard Alden
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

8 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A slow, rich movie. Though it lags in places, the three lead performances are indelibly written in my memory. And the great jazz soundtrack and warm colors made this movie go down like a glass of bourbon.

Embodying the archetypal difficult genius, Emmet Ray is an almost cartoonishly dislikable guy. But Sean Penn keeps him just this side of sympathetic; we loathe his actions, we curse his self-destructiveness, and yet we're compelled to keep watching in the increasingly futile hope he'll turn himself around. His last scenes are heartrending.

As Hattie, Samantha Morton strikes a perfect, almost Chaplinesque, balance of comedy and tragedy. The line separating the two is razor-thin; she dances gracefully upon it. I could say more, but perhaps appropriately, it's difficult to find words that capture the beauty of her silent performance. Half the joy is in watching her reactions naturally unfold anyway.

Like Penn, Uma Thurman portrays a pretty unlikeable character. Her Blanche is overly intellectual, questions incessantly and is in some ways just as emotionally alienated as Emmett. Though her character is grating at first (particularly in contrast to Morton), Thurman does not shrink from the less flattering aspects of her character. It's a brave performance in a thankless role.

Woody Allen has constructed a thoughtful meditation on the nature of artistry. Not on celebrity -- we all know how that film turned out -- but on the rights and responsibilities of the true artist. Emmett, Hattie and Blanche represent the axis of artists, fans and critics respectively. As their relationships play out -- naturally, inexorably and poignantly -- the viewer gets a rare treat: a film that plucks at the mind and at the heart as gracefully as Emmett picking his guitar strings.

49 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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