‘Low Down’: Addicted to cliches


Only serious jazz fans remember Joe Albany, a pianist whose bright and energetic attack kept him working until his death in 1988.

“Low Down,” based on a memoir by his daughter, Amy, feels hackneyed, despite being a true story. It struggles to be something more than the tale of a lovable, talented but self-destructive junkie who repeatedly puts the well-being of his young daughter at risk because of his behavior.

As played by the always-intriguing John Hawkes, Joe is fresh out of jail (for possession). It’s the 1970s in L.A., and his daughter (Elle Fanning) is an adolescent eager for his company.

In this film by Jeff Preiss, Joe seeks gigs and tries not to seek drugs, though they seem to find him. He disappears from time to time, occasionally back into jail, after pissing off his parole officer. Which leaves Amy to fend for herself in the Skid Row apartment building where they live. She plays with the kids of other junkies and is befriended by some of the denizens of the building, including Peter Dinklage.

Her own mother (Lena Headey) is a barfly, so Joe’s mother (Glenn Close) steps in to care for her granddaughter and, occasionally, for Joe.

We’re meant to tsk-tsk over Joe and his struggle with drugs. Yet it’s hard to be sympathetic.

This review continues on my website.

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