Sweet and Lowdown DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Sweet and Lowdown DVD review
Jun 20, 2000, 05:41

SWEET AND LOWDOWN directed by Woody Allen; Columbia Tristar, 2000

With few exceptions (Bullets Over Broadway, Manhattan Murder Mystery), Woody Allen's '90s output has not only been bad, it's been unwatchable. Deconstructing Harry stands as one of the most skin-crawling, white-knuckled movie irritants ever committed to celluloid. Mighty Aphrodite had me running from the theater before the first reel change. While I've repeatedly promised never again to subject myself to his NYC, upper-middle class, psycho analytic claptrap, I still find myself compelled to explore his latest. Sweet and Lowdown, featuring Sean Penn as a troubled musician forever stuck in the shadow of his hero Django Reinhardt, seemed to have potential. To its credit, Sweet and Lowdown isn't overly annoying. Sadly though, it's pretty boring. Turmoil, jealously, egomania, and artistic angst have never been rendered so flat and emotionless. Even John Waters's cameo as an entertainment booker can't get the pulse racing. On the bright side, the Reinhardt-esque music makes the movie go down smooth. Also, Samantha Morton scores big in her role as the impish, mute love interest. Of course, she has the advantage of not having to utter some of the trite dialogue bandied about. “Sooner or later, everybody's dreams go up in smoke.” Yeesh. Penn is all right as the insensitive egomaniac Emmet Ray, but unfortunately plays it a bit squirrely in the style of all Woody Allen protagonists. While Allen had the good sense (finally) not to miscast himself as the lead, he still appears in the film, which  is set up as a documentary with scholars talking about Ray's life. As a result, Allen gets the first and last words of the film as one of these erudite bores. Tellingly, his opening comment is “Emmet Ray was...pathetic, boorish, and obnoxious.” Geez-maybe Woody should have played that part. It wouldn't have been a challenge.

-Danny Plotnick

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