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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.45%
Worth A Look: 29.41%
Pretty Bad: 1.96%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Sweet and Lowdown
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by Stephen Groenewegen

3 stars

Sean Penn gives a mannered, showy performance as a Depression-era guitarist in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown. When he’s hunched over his guitar, Penn’s eyes close and he takes on a blissed-out, faraway look. At first, I thought he was transformed by the music he was playing. By the end of the film, when I’d lost patience, he just look stoned.

Penn’s Emmet Ray is a fictional character, but Allen intersperses the action with talking head shots of jazz “experts” (including himself) who discuss the sketchy details of Ray’s life. This is just a device to move the story on and it becomes strained
because the experts lack genuine enthusiasm for their subject; they’re too hesitant, as if there’s a gun pointed at them off-camera to make them talk.

Ray was an arrogant womaniser, and the film focuses on his relationships with the mute Hattie (an expressive performance from Samantha Morton) and Blanche (Uma Thurman), who marries him because she’s fascinated by celebrity. But the key is Penn’s performance. Initially, I enjoyed the script’s humour and found Penn engaging. But the film hits trouble when you realise that neither the character nor the performance are going to change, and they become wearisome.

In Lowdown's favour, Santo Loquasto’s 1930s design work is wonderful. I also loved Fei Zhao’s colourful cinematography. It really opens up the film and makes a nice change for Allen, whose pictures are frequently dark and claustrophobic.

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originally posted: 08/22/00 18:25:28
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User Comments

8/17/09 william allen Woody' movies are not ALL masterpieces, but this one is! 5 stars
6/13/04 Ass^trid If you like brilliant acting and have a fascination for human trainwrecks (I do), see! 4 stars
12/08/03 john brilliant - funny and with a truly engaging story 5 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Watching it you wouldn't know it's Woody Allen. Dispite that... It's very good. 5 stars
3/27/03 Jack Sommersby A lovely film. Penn and Morton are marvelous. Only errs when Thurman's onscreen. 5 stars
8/30/02 owenmeany2 Sweet, smart and very beautiful. Great visuals and great acting, what more do you want? 5 stars
7/03/00 PJ made my top ten of 99 easily. Penn and Moton were brilliant, Woody can't go wrong!!! 5 stars
3/19/00 Skye Chapman ho-hum 2 stars
3/16/00 Heather Very funny, one of the year's best 5 stars
3/12/00 Malbert A lot of funny parts, some slow...acting was great(except for Thurman) 3 stars
3/11/00 "Persnickety "Jenn could have been shorter, cute, 3 stars
1/19/00 Benjamin McGough An enjoyable movie no Allen or Penn fan should miss. 4 stars
1/01/00 Tyson Stewart Such a great concept and sweet film!!! One of the year's best. 5 stars
12/05/99 MrShowbiz The presence of an engrossing Sean Penn adds a unique savor to this Woody Allen film. 3 stars
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  21-Jan-2000 (PG-13)


  13-Jul-2000 (M)

Directed by
  Woody Allen

Written by
  Woody Allen

  Sean Penn
  Samantha Morton
  Uma Thurman
  Anthony LaPaglia
  Gretchen Mol
  John Waters

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