Sweet And Lowdown

on December 03, 1999 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   A departure for Woody Allen, "Sweet and Lowdown" is actually based on a true story, that of Emmet Ray (Sean Penn), widely considered the second-best guitarist in the world in the '30s, after the legendary Django Reinhardt. But Emmet disappeared from sight-and the music world-after the breakup of his relationship with the mute Hattie (Samantha Morton), the woman who, though he didn't realize it at the time, was the love of his life.
   There's a sweetness to "Sweet and Lowdown" whenever Penn and Morton interact on screen and, mostly, she's the reason for that. Hers is a wondrous performance, poignantly capturing, without any dialogue, Hattie's dreams, needs and genuine love for the egotistical, self involved Emmet. It's as impressive an acting turn as Morton's breakthrough role in "Under the Skin." Penn, who couldn't give a bad performance if he tried, is also fun as the foolish Emmet, though the part isn't much of a stretch. Uma Thurman as a debutante who loves hearing about the seamy side of life perks up the film, too. For a change, the actors in an Allen movie actually get meaty roles instead of glorified cameos.
   Oddly, what's missing here is musical passion, which you'd expect to find in spades from jazz fanatic Allen. "Sweet and Lowdown" is a staid, chaste film, which even sanitizes the druggy aspect of the jazz milieu. Granted, "Sweet and Lowdown" isn't as unfocused or bilious as recent Allen movies, but it's still pretty mundane.    Starring Sean Penn, Samantha Morton and Uma Thurman. Directed and written by Woody Allen. Produced by Jean Doumanian. A Sony Pictures Classic release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some substance abuse. Running time: 93 min.
Tags: Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Uma Thurman, Directed and written by Woody Allen, Produced by Jean Doumanian, A Sony Pictures Classic release, Comedy, impressive, egotistical, love, wondrous, musical
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