Sam Rivman ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Low Down, starring Elle Fanning and John Hawkes, follows the story of jazz pianist Joe Albany (Hawkes) through the eyes of his daughter Amy (Fanning) as he struggles with drug addiction during the 1960s and 70s. While the film explores an interesting viewpoint utilizing Fanning as the medium, Low Down ultimately talks a big game without much to say. Much of the action is repetitive and the plot fizzles at the conclusion of the film. With that being said, the acting alongside the unique artistry saves the film from being worse than mediocre.
Throughout Low Down, Joe is unable to discard his heroin addiction. The plot builds a tension between him and Amy as she watches him regress over and over into his dirty habits, but it ends up going nowhere. Joe goes through drug abuse group treatment and even goes into forced rehab, but remains entirely stagnant throughout the film. While it wasn’t necessary for him to recover, there should have been some sort of rise, climax, and fall for the focal point of the film to be his heroin addiction. A lot of screen time is devoted to Amy witnessing her father’s poor choice of lifestyle, but nothing much comes from it, as both Joe’s cycle of self indulgence and Elle’s cycle of watching quietly from the sidelines remain almost entirely unaltered throughout.
Although the plot is a bit bland, the film makes excellent use of its exceptional cast. Sheila Albany (Lena Headey), Amy’s mother, is a bitter drunk and absent parent. Headey’s performance is chilling, and its clear that her time on Game of Thrones has only improved her ability to injure with a look and kill with words on screen. Peter Dinklage (also of Game of Thrones) also makes an appearance as Alain, a resident of Joe’s apartment building and a porn actor. Alain has a nice meeting with Amy, which brought some warmth to an otherwise cruel film.
However, this warmth is quickly morphed into disgust when Amy kisses him after seeing his home. The kiss was quite disturbing due to the age difference, but was a great character development tool, as it symbolized Amy’s desire to be treated with any sort of kindness, which she translates into falsely romantic feelings for Alain. While Alain is somewhat of a one-note character, Dinklage gives a strong performance with the role he is given, nonetheless.
In terms of artistic components of Low Down, the frequent jazz music elevates the film. Jazz music is often affiliated with drug use and an edgy lifestyle, so it fits perfectly into Joe’s life. His piano playing is magnificent, and luckily he doesn’t skimp out on playing for any long stretch of time. Their mutual love of jazz music also serves as Amy’s only real connection to her father, as he is otherwise unable to connect with her on a deep level.
Low Down heads in a few different directions, but never really pans out any of them. While the plot is no treat, the actors were very well chosen and their characters were mostly well developed. If the film is looked at as a whole, it falls flat, but dissected, it isn’t difficult to find quite a few things done right.
Overall Grade: B-