SWEET AND LOWDOWN

Bitter, Not Sweet

Content -2
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: December 03, 1999

Starring: Sean Penn, Samantha Morton,
Uma Thurman, & Anthony
LaPaglia

Genre: Drama

Audience: Older teenagers & adults

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 93 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Director: Woody Allen

Executive Producer: J. E. Beaucaire

Producer: Jean Doumanian

Writer: Woody Allen

Address Comments To:

Michael Barker, Tom Bernard & Marcie Bloom
Co-Presidents
Sony Pictures Classics
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
(212) 833-8833
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com

Content:

(HH, B, LL, V, S, N, AA, DD, MM) Humanist worldview of extremely talented, but arrogant & rude, jazz guitarist in the 1930s who loses the only woman who ever truly loved him, the movie’s one moral element; 5 obscenities, 8 strong profanities & 1 mild profanity; mild violence such as two depicted holdups (one with some brief shooting of rats), implied car crash, stage scenery falls down, & man smashes instrument; implied fornication, married woman commits adultery & protagonist acts as a pimp in one scene & has a series of sexual affairs; brief upper male nudity; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking & marijuana use depicted; and, protagonist marries the wrong woman for the wrong reasons.


Summary:

In Woody Allen’s latest drama, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, Sean Penn plays Emmet Ray, an extremely talented, but arrogant and rude, jazz guitarist in the 1930s who loses the only woman who ever truly loved him. Despite an absolutely marvelous performance by Samantha Morton as the mute waif who loves Emmet, the movie includes some foul language, implied sexual situations and no positive moral or biblical worldview.


Review:

Former stand-up comic and renowned filmmaker Woody Allen is well known for his short stories published in the NEW YORKER magazine. Most of his movies play also like short stories and often lack the cohesion that a feature-length movie requires, even when they’re only 90 minutes. This was true of many of his early comedies, and it’s also true of many of his dramas.
Allen’s newest movie, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, is no exception here. In it, Sean Penn stars as Emmet Ray, an extremely talented, but arrogant and rude, jazz guitarist who gains notoriety in the 1930s as the second best jazz guitarist in the world. In a similar fashion to an earlier movie, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, Allen uses real-life people from the present, including himself and New York columnist Nat Hentoff, to comment about Ray’s career and tell stories they’ve heard and read about the man, his guitar and his women.
In flashback mode, the movie reveals Emmet’s lifestyle, which is playing in a series of nightclubs. For recreation, Emmet likes to shack up with a series of women, play pool, watch trains, shoot rats in garbage dumps, and drink. He often loses jobs because he is out pursuing his non-sexual activities, which often make him late for work.
One day, Emmet picks up Hattie, a young waif-like woman who can’t speak, played by Samantha Morton. She falls in love with him and his music, even though Emmet plainly tells her that his attitude is to “love ‘em and leave ‘em.” Hattie may remind viewers of Tatum O’Neal’s character in PAPER MOON or Charlie Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS where Chaplin’s Tramp falls in love with a blind girl.
After a couple years living together on the road, Emmet abruptly leaves poor Hattie. He then hooks up with a tall blonde socialite, Blanche, played by Uma Thurman. Blanche, however, is a writer who’s only interested in Emmet as a subject for her stories. After having a nightmare where he says Hattie’s name, Emmet impulsively marries Blanche. Soon, however, Emmet comes to realize that he should never have left Hattie, the only woman who truly loved both him and his wonderful music.
SWEET AND LOWDOWN is a slight Woody Allen drama that only has two things going for it – the acting of the lead characters, especially Samantha Morton as Hattie, and the cinematography by Zhao Fei, which has many colorful reds and yellows in it. The protagonist is a rather alienating character, which dilutes the dramatic power of his breakdown when he realizes he should have stayed with Hattie. Emmet is clearly the “lowdown” character in the title to Hattie’s “sweet” one. Part of the problem may be that, as good as she is, and she is really good in this movie, Samantha Morton’s Hattie cannot speak and is never the central focus in the movie, Emmet is. Thus, to say, as one critic did, that “Allen never had a protagonist as riveting as Emmet or a fable as good as this one” is a wildly extravagant claim that the movie just can’t support.
Finally, although Emmet does get his comeuppance at the end of SWEET AND LOWDOWN, Allen’s pseudo-intellectual, humanist worldview doesn’t allow him to really explore the moral or spiritual dimensions of the situation he sets up in his movie. The movie’s discussion of what makes a great artist is interesting but not as compelling as the discussion about art in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, Allen’s best movie in recent years. SWEET AND LOWDOWN is also filled with some foul language, including eight strong profanities, and implied sexual situations. At one point, Emmet even earns money as a pimp, another fact that will further alienate any committed Jew, Christian or Muslim.


In Brief:

In Woody Allen’s latest drama, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, Sean Penn plays Emmet Ray, an extremely talented, but arrogant and rude, jazz guitarist in the 1930s who loses the only woman who ever truly loved him. In flashback mode, the movie reveals Emmet’s lifestyle, which is playing in a series of nightclubs. For recreation, Emmet likes to shack up with a series of women, play pool, watch trains, shoot rats in garbage dumps, and drink. He often loses jobs because he’s out pursuing his non-sexual activities, which often make him late for work. Emmet gets his comeuppance when he discovers that he should never have left Hattie, a waif-like mute woman played by Samantha Morton in an absolutely wonderful performance recalling the heyday of silent movies.
Although Emmet does get his comeuppance at the end, Allen’s pseudo-intellectual, humanist worldview doesn’t allow him to really explore the moral or spiritual dimensions of the situation he sets up in his movie. SWEET AND LOWDOWN is also filled with plenty of foul language and implied sexual situations. At one point, Emmet even earns money as a pimp, a fact that will further alienate any committed Jew, Christian or Muslim