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Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama, Music | 10 March 2000 (USA)
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In the 1930s, jazz guitarist Emmet Ray idolizes Django Reinhardt, faces gangsters and falls in love with a mute woman.

Director:

Woody Allen

Writer:

Woody Allen
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Woody Allen ... Woody Allen
Ben Duncan Ben Duncan ... Ben Duncan
Daniel Okrent ... A.J. Pickman
Dan Moran ... Boss
Tony Darrow ... Ben
Chris Bauer ... Ace - Pool Player
Sean Penn ... Emmet Ray
Constance Shulman ... Hazel - Hooker #1
Kellie Overbey Kellie Overbey ... Iris - Hooker #2
Darryl Alan Reed ... Don
Marc Damon Johnson Marc Damon Johnson ... Omer
Ron Cephas Jones ... Alvin
Steve Bargonetti Steve Bargonetti ... Musician Friend
Benjamin Franklin Brown Benjamin Franklin Brown ... Musician Friend
James Urbaniak ... Harry
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Storyline

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 <mlewison@utk.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Official Sites:

Sony Pictures Classics

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 March 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Woody Allen Fall Project 1998 See more »

Filming Locations:

Haverstraw, New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$29,750,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$94,686, 5 December 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$4,196,621, 21 May 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital (Mono)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Samantha Morton received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in spite of the fact that she has no spoken lines. See more »

Goofs

Emmett's guitar playing is completely mis-matched with what is heard on the soundtrack. He plays the wrong chords, doesn't position his hands properly for the chords he does play, and is often strumming when he should be plucking (and vice versa). See more »

Quotes

Emmet Ray: I didn't ask your opinion. I'm just telling ya how it's gonna go.
See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Nevertheless (I'm in Love with You)
(1931)
Lrics by Bert Kalmar
Music by Harry Ruby
Performed by Bert Ambrose and His Orchestra (as Ambrose and His Orchestra)
Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The first essential Woody Allen film in a long time.
31 May 2004 | by Ben_CheshireSee all my reviews

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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