Thursday, January 27, 2000
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Volume 65, Issue 82

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About the Cougar

Penn, Thurman, Allen make Sweet and Lowdown an entertaining film

Sweet and Lowdown

Sony Pictures Classics
Sean Penn, Uma Thurman, Samantha Morton,
Rating PG-13
Release Date: Friday, Jan. 28

B -

By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff

Sweet and Lowdown, Woody Allen's latest film, narrates the story of Emmet Ray (Sean Penn), a jazz guitarist who is unable to grow up.

Emmet is, to say the least, an interesting character, whose pastimes include watching trains, shooting rats and drinking. Besides music, he makes money by betting at pool games, shoplifting and pimping.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Ray (Sean Penn) goes to extreme lengths to impress his audiences in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown.

Emmet has a big personality and a very big ego, which hide his insecurities.

Emmet represents a recompilation of different famous jazz musicians and their extravagant personalities. From the beginning of Sweet and Lowdown, Allen makes fun of the audience, and takes it for a ride.

In an opening scene, Allen makes an appearance to talk about Emmet's legendary life and career. He describes Emmet as a pathetic and fun person. This definition is very accurate since Emmet's life has fun moments, but also has disappointments due to his lack of character.

Allen once again makes fun of and analyzes the frailties of men. The audience laughs at Emmet's insecurities and traumas, but it can identify with the buffoon, and can compare his embarrassing situations to situations in every person's life.

As the main narrator, Allen's confusion between what is legend and what is truth also makes for funny situations and misunderstandings. Many of Sweet and Lowdown 's humorous moments derive from Emmet's insecurities and vanity.

Although Emmet's talent is never really explained in the film, he is certainly good enough to have earned a reputation as a talented musician. In spite of this, Emmet considers himself only second best, after his idol, the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.

This insecurity is so great that he runs away from a concert performance after being informed that Reinhardt is in the audience.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Sean Penn plays Emmet Ray, a fictitious guitar player who struggles in his relationships in the upcoming film, Sweet and Lowdown.

Another of Emmet's problems is his inability to sustain a romantic relationship with Hattie (Samantha Morton), the girl he loves. Hattie is a naive girl, who is full of life and admiration for her boyfriend. Although she is not street smart like Emmet, Hattie is capable of loving and enjoying life in a way that Emmet can never accomplish.

After Emmet and Hattie break up, the musician marries Blanche (Uma Thurman), who is completely different from Hattie. Blanche, a sophisticated and seductive writer, wishes to get in Emmet's mind and find out what makes him tick. One of Blanche's goals is to write a novel about Emmet.

Blanche is not as interesting as Emmet or Hattie. She is a practical woman with less sentimentality than the other two characters. Sweet and Lowdown gets slower after Blanche appears because Emmet is not really in love with Blanche. He only married her to forget about Hattie, the woman he really loves.

Emmet's talented guitar playing comes very easily, but perhaps that isn't really a big accomplishment. His life never gets started because he is always after some angle. He constantly hides his insecurities with arrogance and vanity and walks away from love and responsibility.

Penn's portrayal of an egotistic and childish man who is defeated by fear is convincing. In order for this character to be likable, Penn has achieved at least a small victory.

The first half of Sweet and Lowdown is entertaining, but the film loses some of its initial power and life. The brilliance of Woody Allen is present in the first half of the film, but this film is not one of his best works.

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