Prolific writer-director Woody Allen is the powerhouse behind this film about a fictional jazz guitarist in 1930s America. Though the film opens with some talking heads for context about the myth and the man who considered himself the second best guitarist in the world, it soon transports us back to the 1930s and the era of jazz.
Sean Penn plays Emmet Ray, who is the lowdown guitarist from the title. Emmet is a self-centred, egotistical creep, at the same time a fool and a genius. This leads Emmet into all kinds of trouble, and means that instead of riding high, his extraordinary talent is stuck playing in crummy nightclubs where most of the owners want to sack him. Samantha Morton plays Hattie, who is the sweet to Emmet’s lowdown – “the little one with the silly hat”. Hattie is a mute, but Morton doesn’t overcook the facial expressions, instead providing delicate glances that Emmet interprets beautifully.
Both Sean Penn and Samantha Morton were Oscar-nominated for their roles in this film, and it's easy to see why. The chemistry between the two makes us believe that they are a perfect match. This is a character study, but one that feels like a yarn that is spun, a modern legend that has been tweaked each time it is retold.
The score is well worth a mention too, even for those of us who are not huge jazz fans.
Conclusion: Jingling jazz in the 1930s!
Overall Rating: Not everyone’s cup of tea, but definitely worth a watch!
Check it out on IMDB here!
[Image from IMDB]