Film Reviews

Indie Drama Low Down Proves It's Hard to Be/Watch a Heroin-Addicted Jazz Dad

Adapted from Amy-Jo Albany's memoir about growing up with her father, Joe, the jazz pianist best known for playing with Charlie Parker, Low Down stars John Hawkes and Elle Fanning as a father-daughter duo with a lot of love and even more problems.

A charming, gifted musician with a heroin problem, Joe does his utmost to shield AJ from the darker shades of their life — random visits from his parole officer, junkie friends whose addictions are even worse than his — but he's too much of a mess to maintain the illusion, and she's too smart to believe it anyway. Jeff Preiss evokes early-1970s Los Angeles with an initial nostalgia that slowly turns grim.

The back-and-forth tonal shifts could certainly be described as jazzy, and every individual player has chops, but the ensemble cast (which includes Glenn Close, Peter Dinklage, and co-producer Flea) is done no favors by a script that gets them more and more out of sync.

There are too many notes that, while not false, are neither satisfactorily resolved nor left interestingly unresolved. Joe and AJ drift back and forth from one another, she a wellspring of emotion every time he breaks a promise or squanders another opportunity. You can see him wonder what he did to deserve such a loving, forgiving daughter. After a while, so do we.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Nordine is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.
Contact: Michael Nordine