SERIES "The Eddy"
WHERE|WHEN Streaming on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT After a brief sojourn to the moon with "First Man," the filmmaker Damien Chazelle returns to the world of jazz in "The Eddy," a Netflix series created and written by Jack Thorne that completes an unofficial trilogy for Chazelle.
His "Whiplash" (2014) depicted a drumming prodigy in an elite music conservatory; the MGM-style musical "La La Land" (2016) found Ryan Gosling playing a jazz pianist with dreams of maintaining the genre's popularity; and, finally, "The Eddy" concerns Elliot Udo (André Holland), the American owner of a jazz club called The Eddy in Paris. (Chazelle's first movie, "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench," is jazz themed as well.)
The Netflix series finds Elliot facing a series of difficulties in keeping the club open and viable, not the least of which is a murder investigation, as well as contending with the challenges of reconnecting with his teenage daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg, the wonderful star of "The Hate U Give") after she arrives in Paris to live with him.
MY SAY Chazelle has long established himself to be one of the better filmmakers around when it comes to making movies that feel like a great piece of music; "Whiplash" has the frenetic energy of an impassioned drum solo, while "La La Land" plays like a Gershwin piece fused with the modern day.
"The Eddy" ebbs and flows like a great piece of jazz, with an improvisational quality marked by a probing and searching camera and rhythmic layers that allow for the narrative to explore complicated emotional depths.
Through the first four of the eight episodes of "The Eddy," which is streaming now, he and director Houda Benyamina (who takes over for three and four after Chazelle helms the first two) maintain that sensibility with a remarkable degree of consistency.
Some of the most engaging sequences involve rhythmic, syncopated editing — a shot of clothing spinning in a dryer is seamlessly interwoven with the beat of a bongo drum, for example — and the musical performances with originals by Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber are genuinely, thrillingly affecting.
Holland and Stenberg are commanding presences at the center of this story, developing a father-daughter relationship that is marked by a fresh, matter-of-fact quality. There is no time for hand-holding or coddling, just painful, raw honesty. They are surrounded by an ensemble of key players in The Eddy's house band who are given rich back stories, highlighting the discordant nature of lives spent excelling on stage and struggling off it.
Aficionados of the genre will appreciate the quality of the musicianship involved; anyone with the slightest artistic inkling, no matter what it may be, will recognize the way the miniseries captures something ineffably real about the tremendous joy and pain that coexist in the ways these characters relate to their instruments.
The material works best when it's infused with this spirit; when the obligations of developing a plot take hold, the filmmakers strain to maintain the same level of interest. Shady figures circle around The Eddy; the police get involved in the investigation of a murder; Julie sets down a bad path.
Through the first four episodes Thorne, the primary writer, has a tough time figuring out how to marshal all of this together while keeping focus on the essence of this story of the agony and the ecstasy of making art.
BOTTOM LINE Don't miss this series, with its first-rate performances and impeccable filmmaking. It is rich and rewarding, even if it runs into the occasional plotting issue.