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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 17, 2000)
By Shelley Mika
It truly pains me to review Woody
Allen’s latest film, “Sweet and
Lowdown.” Not so much because it was
a bad movie, but mostly because, as a
longtime Allen fan, I was not sure I was
even watching an Allen movie.
As movies go, “Sweet and
Lowdown” has few flaws. But com
pared to other Woody Allen films, this
one was a disappointment
“Sweet and Lowdown” lacks the
essential “Allen-ness” apparent in the
greater part of the director’s oeuvre. We
don’t see any of the lovable neurotic
(except in commentary scenes where he
seems pretty normal), absolutely no
quintessential New Yoik and none of the
romance so important in Allen’s work.
Instead we get a biography of
Emmet Ray, a-fictional jazz guitarist
played by Sean Penn. Ray is an interest
ing subject as he not only travels from
city to city performing, but also has a
taste for liquor, enjoys shooting rats at
the dump and suffers from kleptomania.
Though he obviously has his own
quirks, Ray’s eccentricities could never
endear us as Allen’s do.
Still, Penn nails the role by accurate
ly reflecting Ray’s intricate personality,
bringing to the brash character a sensi
tivity that lies just below the surface. If
there’s one reason to see this film, it’s to
witness Penn’s malleability as an actor.
Nearly equal to Penn’s performance
is that of Samantha Morton, who plays
walked a mile
it* their shoes
(Or a half a mile in their underwear)
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STARRING: Sean Penn,
Samantha Morton, Uma
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
GRADE: Compared to
other films: A, compared
to Woody Allen films: C
FIVE WORDS: Dissatisfying
meditation on jazz guitarist.
Ray’s mute girlfriend, Hattie. Obviously
the role leaves no room for dialogue, yet
Morton provides a necessary depth for
From these two characters - one
sweet and humble, the other crude and
egotistical - comes an expert balance of
melancholy and humor. Though there is
no real plot, the conflicting emotions
Allen reveals provide a roaming climax.
At the same time, “Sweet and
Lowdown” more or less floats by view
ers, engaging their curiosity in Ray but
not really providing a vested interest in
his failure or success.
For the most part, this is because of
the nature of the character. But one has
Sean Penn and UmaThurman star in the Woody Allen picture “Sweet and
Lowdown.” The film opens tonight at the Mary Riepma Ross Film Theater.
to ask why, when Allen usually features
a lead we can relate to, he would choose
a subject so emotionally distant.
The only answer is also one of the
few things “Sweet and Lowdown” has
in common with Allen’s earlier work:
This film comes off as a way for
Allen, a jazz fan, to work with masters
such as Howard Alden and Bucky
Pizzarelli, who provide much of the gui
tar work for the film.
Indeed, the soundtrack is exception
al, as most Allen soundtracks are. For
that reason alone, jazz fans will want to
see this movie.
As for Allen fans, “Sweet and
Lowdown” will probably leave you dis
satisfied and running to rent “Annie
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