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Sweet And Lowdown (PG) 95 mins t t at t

Sean and Sam provide weary Woody fans with a magnificent tonic

he is rude, uncaring, egomaniacal and utterly selfish in almost all of his dealings. The one who suffers most is the mute Hattie (the

If you were none the wiser, several things give Sweet And Lowdown away as a Woody Allen movie. There’s the archetypal opening credit sequence (oh look, it's a Jack Rollins/Charles H. Joffe co-production) overlaid by music culled from the 20th century's early years. The opening moments have the director talking straight to camera, explaining the reasons behind this choice of venture.

But that is where the Woody stamp ends; and for those who have grown steadily weary with the Allen By Numbers of recent efforts such as Celebrity and Deconstructing Harry, Sweet And Lowdown should come as a magnificent, if ultimately darker tonic.

Sean Penn is simply awesome as 19305 musician Emmet Ray who is a fictional character, but acts as an amalgam of many of the period’s key jazzmen. The self- proclaimed second best guitar player in the world, he believes the best is Django Reinhardt, whom he met three times, fainting on each occasion. His respect for the ’gypsy guitar man’ is Ray's sole element of humility;

splendid Samantha Morton). Besotted with Ray, they live together for a while but when she threatens to declare her love, he is off, unable to stand the strain of commitment and more at home shooting rats and indulging in his serial kleptomania. Later he foolishly gets hitched to Uma Thurman's glamorous socialite Blanche and his later attempts to make amends for past errors proves futile.

This being a Woody Allen production, there is a series of notable cameos and brief interluders such as Murder One’s Anthony LaPaglia as Al Torrio - the man who may have come between Emmet and his good lady wife - and ex-trash director John Waters as the had-you-up-to- here nightclub owner Mr Haynes.

Visually, musically, dramatically and comedically, Sweet And Lowdown can sit comfortably among Woody Allen’s best works. And with the passing of cinematic time, they will surely be reflected upon as his lead pair’s finest hour and a half. (Brian Donaldson)

I Glasgow: GFT‘ Edinburgh: Cameo from Fri 9 Jun.

.‘ g I‘ m“. u Bullock loses her wholesome image with her portrayal of an alcoholic

34 THE “81' 8—22 Jun 2000

Return To Me (PG) 115 mins * * it

David Duchovny's first major leading role in a romantic comedy should not come as much of a surprise to anyone, as he has been setting gussets alight as

that spook stalking slacker Fox Mulder

in The X-Fi/es for some time now.

The plot here is sugary and fairly flat: Bob (Duchovny) and childhood sweetheart Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) are involved in a car crash where she perishes. Heart transplant patient Grace (Minnie Driver) receives Elizabeth’s heart and makes a full

recovery. Bob receives an anonymous

letter from the organ transplant group

thanking him for allowing someone to

live. This letter is from Grace. Bob, by sheer coincidence you understand, meets up with Grace and they fall in love, but when the letter reappears it all goes horribly . . . well not wrong, not even bad; it all seems a bit woozy for five minutes where everyone looks

a bit miffed. But there’s no drama or tension, which is a huge disappoint-

ment after such a long build-up.

The film’s concept could have come straight out of a 405 Jimmy Stewart movie, but Return To Me has neither the stellar script nor compelling cast to hold one’s attention for nearly two hours. Duchovny has a peculiar knack for underacting and, although when required he can wink and wisecrack, it often feels like he’s woken up Just before the camera started rolling. Driver is as broad-jawed and beautiful as ever, but betrays her genuinely spunky roles in the likes of Grosse Point Blank by Simpering and stuttering as though the kooky monster has his kooky kalashnikov trained on her.

John Belushi provides admirable support as Grace’s loony brother-in-law and the quintet of elderly folks who inhabit the restaurant she works in are

a hilarious distraction. They bring to

mind the Madonna arguments in

Reservoir Dogs, or the dinner table

28 Days (15) 109 mins * *

So often cinema’s girl next door, Sandra Bullock loses her wholesome image With her portrayal of an alcoholic in this comedy drama. She plays celebrity writer Gwen Cummings, a full-on party girl who lands herself in a month’s court-ordered rehab after wrecking both her Sister’s wedding and the limo she stole during the reception. Sent to the woodland retreat Serenity Glen, her hip, flip New York sensibility is totally at odds With the centre’s hugging, chanting, praying ethos.

’I try not to run with the pack,’ she tells her counsellor Cornell, himself a recovering alcoholic (Steve Buscemi in an underwritten part). Remaining aloof from her fellow rehabbers including baseball star Eddie (Viggo Mortensen), camp German performance artist Gerhard (Alan Tudyk) and seventeen- year-old heroin addict Andrea (Azura Skye) Gwen refuses to acknowledge that she has a problem. (’Maybe I like a mess,’ she declares). Eventually, however, after another drunken accident and a tragic death, her cynicism is broken down and she gets with the twelve-step programme.

In the film’s early scenes depicting Gwen’s nights of drunken debauchery with her cool English boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West), director Thomas’s swirling, woozin out-of-focus camera and staccato editing effectively evoke her out-of-control state. Given that she’s a screen comedy veteran (The Brady Bunch Movie, Private Parts, Doctor Do/itt/e), however, Thomas’ timing of some of the later gags is surprisingly off.

But it’s in its tackling of the issue of substance abuse itself that Thomas’s film is most disappointing. Although a lot less facile than that other recent

banter with Momma Scorsese in Goodfe/las. These, however, are the scarce morsels of meat on these tired romantic comedy bones.

(Mark Robertson)


I General release from Fri 9 Jun. See


therapy movie Girl, Interrupted, 28

Days remains annoyingly glib. Bullock does hit a convincing note of rueful self-awareness in the later scenes, but her new insight, complete With flashbacks to a damaged childhood with a drunken mother, seems too easily achieved. If the film doesn’t exactly plumb the lower depths of its heroine’s psyche, at least it doesn’t go With the Hollywood flow and

refreshingly refuses to give us an i

upbeat, sentimental ending. (Jason Best) I General release from Fri 76 Jun.

Duchovny has a peculiar knack for underacting


it t it a Unmissable : , s * t a. Very ood ; t w e Wort a shot t 1* Below average ; it You’ve been warned J'