What a joy it is to waltz through the doors of The Eddy and ride a wave of live music! The Eddy is the latest high-calibre limited series from Netflix and this jazzy song is one their best. An eight-part odyssey through a Parisian nightclub and alternative view of the City of Light, The Eddy fills a void for audiences eager for some nightlife. The soulful music that flows throughout the series’ titular night club riffs with characters and mellow notes of jazz that haven’t collided so wonderfully since Treme left us a decade ago. Much like HBO’s masterful New Orleans-set drama, The Eddy is at once about nothing and everything as the notes that echo in the club carry throughout Paris, exploring corners of the city’s multicultural mosaic. There are few better ways to spend the nights of quarantine than with a glass of wine and The Eddy.
Created by Jack Thorne (The Aeronauts) with episodes directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Houda Benyamina (Divines), Laila Marrakchi (Rock the Casbah), and Alan Poul (Six Feet Under), The Eddy must-stream TV for jazz fans and neophytes alike. It brings refreshing style and substance as the starving artists at its core unleash jazzy catharsis each night. Moonlight’s André Holland stars as Elliot Udo, a former jazz legend who’s retired from playing gigs in favour of running a Parisian jazz hole. His partner at The Eddy, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet), amiably plays the fool to Elliot’s no-nonsense straight man. Their business seems bountiful for a Parisian hole in the wall. The Eddy isn’t known for its décor or charm, but for its phenomenal band.
Meet The Band
Farid plays trumpet with The Eddy’s house band as they rehearse Elliot’s melodies by day and perform them by night. Pianist Randy (Randy Kerber) keeps his head down, while drummer Katarina (Lada Obradovic) attacks the snares and cymbals. On vocals is Maja, played by Joanna Kulig, who steals the show with the silky voice that caught attention in Cold War. Maja’s also Elliot’s on-again-off-again girl, and a bit of a hot mess, drawing notable criticism from her beau during rehearsals. Maja’s vocals end many episodes with new songs composed by Kerber and Glen Ballard. If one hasn’t fully surrendered to The Eddy by the time Kulig entrances us with the series’ triumphantly intoxicating theme “The Eddy” by the finale of the first episode, one had best have another bottle on hand as subsequent chapters autoplay through the queue.
Chazelle directs the first two episodes of The Eddy and the inherent musicality of his aesthetic is a great hook. The cinematography by Eric Gauthier (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Julien Poupard (Les Misérables) gives the ever-moving camera a dazzling tour of the club. Revolving around the players and soaking up the spotlights that give life to the club, the camerawork instils within a viewer the passion that keeps Elliot dedicated to jazz night after night. The cuts hit like drumsticks on a snare, bridging the stories of the band’s diverse members into a collective song. However, as the band perfects its sets while pursuing a record contract, an unexpected tragedy jeopardizes the club’s future.
Notes and Nuances
The act of violence jolts The Eddy’s first episode. However, a gag order by Netflix makes it virtually impossible to discuss The Eddy while dancing around the plot. Alternatively, since Netflix brass spoiled the surprise for media, this reviewer can attest that it’s better to go in cold.
The dramatic turn of events leaves Elliot fighting for his club and re-evaluating what matters most. The arrival of his troubled daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) adds tension but keeps him grounded. Elliot’s responsibility to Julie looms atop him as he heads unexpectedly into the Parisian underworld. Assailed and hounded by a dodgy gangster named Zivko (Alexis Manenti), who gives Elliot a mighty beating in the first episode, The Eddy launches the club owner into a tragic odyssey of self-destruction and reckless behaviour that goes hand-in-hand with jazz. The plot, meanwhile, is as much of an excuse to play music and a vehicle to explore the experiences that give nuance to each savoury note.
The Eddy Sings a Multitude of Experiences
While Elliot remains The Eddy’s central figure, each episode favours the perspective of a unique character. One segment goes further into Julie’s life and her boredom at school. Another observes the experience of bartender Sim (Adil Dehbi), with whom Julie has a budding relationship. Sim’s domestic life with his grandmother, who longs to return to Mecca before she dies, guides the show through the diverse experiences that lend Paris its distinct flavour as worlds collide in the global city. Farid’s wife Amira (Leïla Bekhti) becomes an unexpected pillar of strength as she raises their kids on equal doses of their Muslim faith and French jazz. When the show assumes Maja’s perspective, it sees the struggles of a singer twenty feet from stardom. A lucrative offer for a backup gig threatens the record deal that would give Maja and the band their spotlight with a fraction of the money/audience.
Other episodes take The Eddy into unexpected places. One chapter assumes the perspective of bass player Jude (Damian Nueva Cortes), an otherwise peripheral figure. Jude’s episode reveals the musician to be a recovering heroin addict. Music is the agent for his recovery, just as jazz provides salvation for Elliot, Maja, and others. As Jude begins his story on the streets of Paris, busking for Euros while plucking the heartstrings of passersby, his arc speaks to the multitude of street performers who don’t get their moments to shine. Jude’s tale lends The Eddy another story of love and loss as he encounters a former flame, Habiba (Jisca Kalvanda). Jude learns that the love of his life is marrying another man. He invites the couple to celebrate their special day by crashing a wedding as he and the Eddy band play some Mika tunes for haughty Frenchies.
Solo Numbers Form a Cohesive Whole
The offbeat structure evokes free-flowing jazz as different actors and directors alternate solos. Their talents blend into a cohesive whole. Even the showoffiest of riffs jibe with the syncopated tempo that Chazelles establishes in the first episodes. Holland, seamlessly alternating between English and French, laudably holds the troupe together in his first true lead role. Elliot carries an extraordinary burden and while his behaviour veers from reckless to irrational, Holland lets his character’s convictions guide The Eddy through numerous key changes per episode. Similarly, Rahim often serves as an oasis of rambunctious fun while lending Farid a certain recklessness.
The contrast between characters illustrates how some musicians carry an improvisational riff better than others do. Going solo can bring a band back together or it can lead them astray by losing hold of the rhythm. Responsibility to oneself, versus duty to the group, fuels the series as Elliot avoids easy outs to save the club.
Similarly, Stenberg holds her own with a brave performance that frequently demands for heavy lifting. Kulig, meanwhile, delivers on the promise of her breakout work in Cold War. Maja might be the most underwritten element of The Eddy yet Kulig infuses the vocal performances like a born star. (A subplot in which Maja’s alcoholism threatens to derail her career disappears by the second episode.) The heartache, aspirations, and romanticism that are only hinted at in Maja’s storylines are fully realised in Kulig’s soulful vocals. Her renditions of the series’ theme “The Eddy,” moreover, work fluidly with Holland in a dance of acting and reacting. Elliot wrestles with the club’s survival while finding himself entranced by Maja’s performance and captivating power of jazz. “The Eddy” lingers as an earworm from a memorable series gone too soon.
The Eddy premieres May 8 on Netflix.
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