Review: Low Down

Really Low

LOW DOWN (Jeff Preiss). 114 minutes. Opens Friday (November 21). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN

The problem with making a movie about a junkie is that junkies don’t really do very much. They scrounge, they score, they nod off and eventually they wake up and do it all over again. Drugstore Cowboy and Naked Lunch found things for their junkie heroes to do. Low Down does not.

It’s based on a true story, and is in fact co-written by the woman who lived that story, Amy-Jo Albany. Her father, Joe, was a jazz pianist and a fairly heavy heroin addict. The movie opens in 1974, when Joe and Amy-Jo were living in a fleabag hotel in downtown L.A. It wasn’t fun.

Joe is played by John Hawkes, and Amy-Jo by Elle Fanning. Both are magnetic, fascinating performers, and they can hold the screen when nothing at all is happening. The problem is that for much of Low Down, nothing does. Joe hangs with his friends, Amy-Jo pushes back against her father’s unreliability, and that’s pretty much it.

Director Jeff Preiss has spent decades working as a documentary cinematographer – he shot the gorgeous Chet Baker documentary Let’s Get Lost – and he ensures Low Down has a perfect period look. I just wish I cared about what was happening in the frame.

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