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Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

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


Woody Allen


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



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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 ... 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


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


Comedy | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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


Official Sites:

Sony Pictures Classics





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 »


Box Office


$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

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital (Mono)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Woody Allen pays a clever homage to Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). The characters of Emmet (Penn) and Hattie (Morton) correspond to Zampano (Quinn) and Gelsomina (Masina) including the final scene with Emmet's/Zampano's breakdown and repentance. 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 »


Joe Bedloe: No genius is worth too much heartache.
See more »


References La Strada (1954) See more »


Sweet Sue, Just You
Lyrics by Will J. Harris
Music by Victor Young
Performed by Howard Alden
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Wonderful Movie about Love, Genius and Great Jazz Guitar Playing
5 August 2007 | by zippyflynn2See all my reviews

As Woody Allen said of Sean Penn after working with him on this film "(Sean's) a tremendous actor". And he displays his tremendous talent in playing the role of Emmett Ray, jazz guitarist, a genius at his craft, rather a disastrous dope in all other aspects of his life.

Then there's Samantha Morton who is brilliant in her portrayal of sweet, adorable Hattie, a cute mute young woman whose simple needs and wants, along with her lack of narcissism and inability to spew out mind numbing volumes of bulls+t banter obscure her deep strength and savvy intelligence. Those that value pure, sweet, unassuming kindness will find her irresistibly lovable.

Emmett only really knows one thing, how to play guitar like no one else in the world, with the exception of the one person he idolizes to the point of hysteria: Django Reinhardt. He's obliviously inept at just about everything else in his life, especially his feelings, to the point where he doesn't know real, rare, wonderful love when it's right next to him. Sean is able to make Emmett so very likable, even in his worst of behavior. He excels at what he does best, bringing real human depth and qualities to his craft that exceptionally few actors are or have been capable of doing.

This film is much like the character of Hattie, deceptive in its initial appearance and of a substantially better quality than you may first think. It seems like a light, cute little story largely due to its entertaining presentation and lack of dramatic pretense but there is significant texture and reality to this work of art. Emmett is perhaps the greatest guitar player in America and has so many of the essential ingredients for huge success: drive, ambition, presentation, wardrobe, personality, yet he tends to sabotage himself frequently and never gets the lucky break needed to put him at the top. True he could probably do rather well if he didn't p+ss away such volumes of cash but he never gets the type of success that the best supposedly deserve and is so wrought with money it won't disappear in the most extravagant lifestyles.

Emmett also makes the tragically universal mistake of believing bullsh+t, both his and society's. He thinks the money and possessions and trophy girlfriends are what happiness are all about. His one saving grace is his love and respect for his craft but can this alone keep him from making a disaster of his life? He discovers all too painfully that the beautiful woman with the sophisticated, witty repartee, whom all the other men drool over, has an extremely high price tag of impenetrable, cold blooded narcissism. And though Emmett acts for the most part like a shallow dope, trying to hide and deny that besides being a genius he is a painfully sensitive man in desperate need of sweet, nurturing love, he still makes way too many foolhardy decisions. He is blind to the fact that the women who use sweetness merely as a tool of manipulation are the last thing he, or anyone else with a shred of decency, need or deserve.

This is a great film and story and you can also enjoy a very pretty picture of life in the 1940's while you watch it.

Apparently there was an obscure jazz guitarist named Emmett Ray but even if there wasn't, this is not really a fictionalized account. Certainly not in the sense of capturing the essence of character, love and genius. As he has done so marvelously before and since, Woody Allen masterfully captures an immensely watchable slice of life that most of us will only have an opportunity to witness with this fine offering. For the film itself as well as the two stellar leads this is will go into my relatively short list of wonderful, favorite films.

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