Sweet and Lowdown (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Sweet and Lowdown (1999)



Critic Consensus: Critics praise Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown for its charming, light-hearted comedy and quality acting.

Sweet and Lowdown Photos

Movie Info

Emmet Ray, according to himself, was the greatest jazz guitarist of the 1920s and 1930s. At least in New York, anyway. Although Ray certainly had a signature style and a melodic skill, those who knew Ray best admit that perhaps he was best known in his extra-musical roles -- as a pimp and a kleptomaniac whose fatal flaws hung over his career like a black cloud.

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Sean Penn
as Emmet Ray
Uma Thurman
as Blanche
Brian Markinson
as Bill Shields
John Waters
as Mr. Haynes
Woody Allen
as himself
Nat Hentoff
as Himself
Rick Monday
as Chester Weems
Carole Bayeux
as Rita, Opium Party Hostess
Michael Sprague
as Django Reinhardt
Ben Duncan
as Himself
Daniel Okrent
as A.J. Pickman
Chris Bauer
as Ace, Pool Player
Constance Shulman
as Hazel, Hooker No. 1
Kellie Overbey
as Iris, Hooker No. 2
Steve Bargonetti
as Musician Friend
Benjamin Franklin Brown
as Musician Friend
Emme Kemp
as Jam Session Musician
Clark Gayton
as Jam Session Musician
Marcus McLaurine
as Jam Session Musician
Drummond Erskine
as First Hobo
Joe Ambrose
as Second Hobo
Joe Rigano
as Stagehand
Dennis Stein
as Dick Ruth, Club Owner
Paula Parrish
as Party Guest
Cory Solar
as Party Guest
Lexi Egz
as Party Guest
Yvette Mercedes
as Party Guest
Peter Leung
as Party Guest
William Addy
as Master of Ceremonies
Dick Monday
as Chester Weems
Mary Stout
as Felicity Thomson, Amateur Singer
Carol Woods
as Helen Minton
Josh Mowery
as Movie Director
Fred Goehner
as William Weston
Eddy Davis
as Bass Player No. 2
Ralph Pope
as Panhandler
Jerome Richardson
as Club Musician
Earl P. McIntyre
as Club Musician
James Williams
as Club Musician
Frank Wellington Wess
as Club Musician
Al Bryant
as Club Musician
Ray Garvey
as Club Manager
Sally Placksin
as Sally Jillian
Lola Pashalinski
as Blanche's Friend
Simon Wettenhall
as Jam Session Musician
Orange Kellin
as Jam Session Musician
Brooks Giles III
as Jam Session Musician
Brad Garrett
as Joe Bedloe
Alfred Sauchelli Jr.
as Ned, Pool Player
Michael Bolus
as Lynch, Bar Room Friend
Mick O'Rourke
as Holdup Man
Chuck Lewkowicz
as Police Officer
Rick Mowat
as Flat Tire Man
Ted Wilkins
as Gas Station Inspector
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News & Interviews for Sweet and Lowdown

Critic Reviews for Sweet and Lowdown

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (19)

Droll and amusing.

August 15, 2002 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

A shallow portrait of the artist as a cad.

March 22, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4

It is put together so well you can believe that this human misfit with a terrible taste in tailoring, an insatiable thirst for liquor, an appalling way with women, yet with a guitar in his hand seemingly guided by angels, was a real person.

April 17, 2001 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A likable, lively little ditty -- one theme, some clever variations -- that never wears out its welcome.

January 1, 2000
Top Critic

There is enjoyment to be had from Sweet and Lowdown.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Emmet Ray is a fictional character, but so convincing in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown that he seems like a real chapter of jazz history we somehow overlooked.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sweet and Lowdown

This breezy mockumentary is Woody Allen's loving tribute to period (1930s) Jazz music. The fictitious Emmet Ray is considered to be the world's best jazz guitarist, if not guitarist in general, second only to his idol Django Reinhardt. The film follows Ray's career throughout the 30s (with occasional talking head contributions) as he goes from gig to gig lighting the places up. Offstage however, his life is a mess. Before he becomes famous, he makes his living as a small time pimp, and his favorite hobbies are shooting rats and watching trains. He's not savvy with his money, and he's rather temperamental, but, when you can get him settled down, he's quite something. He's not big on love, feeling that it will ruin his career, but he finds himself drawn to a mute laundress named Hattie, especially when he finds that she loves his music. However, his penchant for infidelity sees him running off and eventually impulsively marrying a high society woman named Blanche. For reasons that I don't want to get into, and seem nutty anyway, things fall apart with Blanche, but there is a bit of redemption and hope here for Ray. One of the amazing things here is that Ray is basically a shiftless, unlikable asshole, but yet you can't help but kinda feel for him and want to see him get through life okay. The film cooks along quite nicely, but then kinda falls apart at the end with a bit of rushed anti-climax. That aside, this film is pretty solid. I liked the mockumentary approach with the talking heads, and this also seems like something Allen had wanted to do for a while in general, being a big jazz enthusiast. The period details are terrific, the music is top notch, and the performances are golden. Sean Penn is terrific as Ray, and he may have done his own playing. Knowing him, he probably did. Uma Thurman is fun as Blanche, but the real treat is Samantha Morton as Hattie. Her performance is amazing. Yeah, it kinda feels like Oscar Bait, but don't tell me that having to play a mute is easy. She excels at having to express herself using just facial expressions and body language, and I loved seeing her channel the silent film era of performance. In various smaller roles we also get some fun turns from Anthony LaPaglia, John Waters, and Brad Garrett. I really enjoyed this. Had it not petered out towards the end, I'd enjoy it even more. It's a strong film, and achieves a decent balance between comedy and drama. If you love jazz, you should definitely give this a look. Same for those of you who dig on Allen. And anyone who wants a good film about music and musicians might be pleased here as well.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


For some art is therapy. Allen posits that the reverse also holds water, only not quite with this effort. Sean Penn is Allen's willing doppelganger here (not adopting Allen's much copied persona unlike most), a man afraid to connect emotionally to anyone. Can anyone get through his Maginot Line of defenses to get to the soul within? Pathos, instead of laughs, thereby infuses this supposed casual look at self-imposed solitude.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Quite delightful. Samantha Morton seriously doesn't need a voice. She has a face! I'm a little iffy about the mockumentary aspect of this movie. For much of it, I thought Emmet Ray was a real person. Then when I learned he wasn't, I wondered why Woody tried to make the biography seem so real. He doesn't eschew mixing fantasy and reality in his other films, so why create a Django Reinhardt-esque character who worships Django Reinhardt without differentiating between the real and fictional Django Reinhardts (think Tom Baxter and Gil Shepherd in The Purple Rose of Cairo)? Django Reinhardt.

Alice Shen
Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

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