Look and feel express more than the wavering story of “Low Down,” based on Amy-Jo Albany’s memoir about growing up as the daughter of the bebop pianist Joe Albany. Adapted by Ms. Albany and Topper Lilien, this movie from Jeff Preiss is a stream of recollections, but the late-afternoon-light grain of its Super 16-millimeter camerawork and the gestures of warmth between its characters perhaps say more than any rise-and-fall might.
Albany played with Lester Young and Charlie Parker, but his career was sidetracked by a heroin addiction, and he died at 63. Mr. Preiss, who shot the Chet Baker documentary “Let’s Get Lost” and made the experimental home-movie pastiche “Stop,” hews to the perspective of Amy, who lived with her father in a Los Angeles flophouse and tagged along to gigs. Mr. Preiss and the cinematographer, Christopher Blauvelt, recognize the value of showing time spent together, even if it’s between neglectful, sudden absences for jail, travel or a fix.
Elle Fanning plays Amy-Jo with less verve than she displayed in her comparable role as a radical’s daughter in “Ginger & Rosa.” But John Hawkes, who resembles Joe Albany, and Glenn Close, as Amy-Jo’s grandmother and sometime foster mother, are strong and subtle forces (and a compelling dual study themselves). The music scene is rounded out by a vivid supporting cast.
“Low Down” stumbles into the pitfalls of both addiction narratives and observer-style autobiography, even if Ms. Albany’s memoir suggests even rougher times. But it still catches in-between moments of closeness that aren’t always seen or heard.
“Low Down” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for drug use, strong language and some sexual content.
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