In this vibrant musical drama Elliot Udo, a once-celebrated musician from New York, is running a small Jazz club called The Eddy in a multicultural neighbourhood in modern-day Paris. He is struggling to keep the club open, manage the house band and deal with his past. When he finds out that his partner is involved in questionable business practices things start to spin out of control.
Do you imagine a more relaxed lounge setting when you first heard of The Eddy, a show based on jazz? Well, this isn’t a picture-perfect Paris from the ‘50s. Hell, it isn’t even a contemporary postcard. Paris is a city of immigrants who live far from the central hustle-bustle. The idea to create music in Paris is certainly ‘Romantic,’ but the lives of the people is far from it. There are misery and an unromantic view of the city and the only point where we find a semblance of hope is when the band is making music. This is the show’s major strength, that it finds small moments of realism like a wedding gig where their music is unexpectedly unpopular, or when the bank refuses them the dough due to unfamiliarity, and smaller moments of joy (the finale music is full of allusions to the stories so far). It is also a great achievement in showcasing the diversity in a modern city, and the fact that it is just a simple fact of life there.
For each episode structured like a character study, the performances are very impressive and diverse, especially since most of the actors have multiple jobs - act, sing, toggle between languages. Holland is the standout performance, showcasing the right amount of restraint and devastation over what he has gone through so far. But he is often quite vile and unlikable, within the plot, jaded and irritable. But even in those moments, we do not feel like switching off from his frustration. Joanna Kulig (from Cold War) as Maja shines through her musical sequences. Leila Bekhti and Tahar Rahim share immense chemistry in just a few minutes, unfortunate that it is prematurely cut off. The real tragedy is what is given to Stenberg, a competent performer who has previously done films like Everything, Everything. The actress has an effervescent sensitive presence as always. But her relationship with Elliott is trivialised immensely till it reaches a quick wrap pre-finale. And since it is just a screaming match between the two of them, she comes across as brattish and screechy. The script does her no justice.
It is fairly evident that Damien Chazelle (who clearly loves jazz) has tried to give the story a nuanced visual style with the first two episodes (more on that later). The trouble with not having Chazelle helm the rest of the episodes in a limited series is that The Eddy feels a bit off-post episode 3, like as if the raw grit and seediness of part of the Parisian nightlife has been completely abandoned. There are fewer performances (even though songs are used in their entirety, which is great) and then that criminal subplot is back. The screenplay is rather unfocused where it seems the show starts off with many themes and points which are either forgotten or brushed off by the end. It is extremely unclear as to whether that is done with the hope that they can be picked up in season 2.
If the intention is to solely focus on a few individuals and how their passion for music binds them together, then that is somewhat achieved in the penultimate episode and finale of The Eddy. There is a certain earnestness when the band is performing, their gigs stand out in a way where we give it our complete attention. This is important as in a show which is not essentially a musical, one could easily find this distracting or dull. But we are at the performance, like a live audience, enraptured by the way it is presented to make us feel one with the music. It is a tragedy that the story doesn’t have the same effect.
As I mentioned that The Eddy isn’t as much a musical as music is a character. It is a real revelation to not use old jazz standards in the soundtrack but completely original music by Glen Ballard. It is a testament to his skill that the show amps it up in excitement when one of his songs is being performed, and how even the story is enhanced as a character goes into it. Real musicians play character roles to add authenticity. Unless you are vehemently against jazz, it would be difficult to imagine that you won’t be looking up with a soundtrack once you’re done watching.
Not really. As a big fan of Chazelle’s debut film Whiplash and some parts of La La Land, I fear that I had high expectations from the kind of Hollywood-esque spectacle he could give to the show. I was also expecting a lot more music and cultural history to pivot the plot. And while the show is visually stunning and has a great soundtrack, it doesn’t really go beyond that.
Unless you are a massive jazz-head who has just yearned for the sheer representation of your kin in this kind of television, The Eddy may be too superficial and tedious for you. It is avoidable for anyone who isn’t into musicals.