Low Down

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday March 10, 2015

Low Down

The Jeff Preiss-directed "Low Down" adapts Amy-Jo Albany's memoir of life with her jazz musician father to gritty (or, at least, grimy) cinematic form. This is a film saturated with the colors and the moods of the 1970s -- and of childhood slowly dawning into the realization that adults are sometimes pretty messed up.

John Hawkes, looking gaunt and a little unmoored, plays Amy-Jo's father, Joe Albany. His skin-and-bones look serves the story well; Joe is a heroin addict. He's also a gifted jazz pianist. As between Heaven and Hell, Joe seems to float, suspended between the high of horse and the divine urge of music; he's barely able to attend to the commonplace requirements of life for either himself or his daughter (played with poise and vulnerability by Elle Fanning). As a result, Amy-Jo ends up living with her grandmother (Glenn Close), a loving -- and extremely tough -- woman who is supportive of her son, but not beyond slapping him, hard, when he deserves it. Close is spectacular in the role.

Flea -- of the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- executive produces and also shows up as Joe's also-addicted buddy, Hobbs; Peter Dinklage makes a cameo appearance as an intriguing tenant in the same building as Amy and her father; Dinklage's fellow "Game of Thrones" star Lena Headey plays Amy's mother, Sheila, a burnout whose boozing hasn't dulled her razor-sharp mind, but has, rather, melted her human compassion.

Special Features include an audio commentary, a "behind the scenes" featurette (which gets into some interesting deleted stuff and talks about elements of the film's production, such as shooting on film and teaching Hawkes to play jazz piano), and an interview and Q&A with writer Amy-Jo Albany and Flea (they totally give props to Close, among other tidbits).

Sweet this isn't, though there is a filial tenderness that's heartbreaking; "Lowdown" is a title that works on many levels. The cast alone makes this an A-level movie, with Preiss' direction and Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography plumbing depths of melancholy and wonder. Are those two emotional states entwined? Probably. In jazz, certainly. The question young Amy has to answer for herself is how she's going to endure the one as she sets about embracing the other. The music, needless to say, is superb.

"Low Down"





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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.