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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 26,365 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 1 win & 13 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?


Samantha Morton received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and she has no spoken lines at all. See more »


During the Hollywood sequence, Emmet's band is backing a black vocalist. In the 1930s, musicians on film were, with extremely rare exceptions (e.g., Benny Goodman's quartet), strictly segregated. There's no way a white band would be playing behind a black woman. See more »


Blanche: [Monologue] Any woman would be second to his music. He wouldn't miss me any more than the woman he abruptly left. He could only feel pain for his music.
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.192 (2010) See more »


All of Me
Written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons (as Seymour B. Simons)
Performed by Carol Woods, Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Kelly Friesen,
Ken Peplowski and Ted Sommer
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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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