Damien Chazelle made his return to jazz-inspired entertainment earlier this month in the form of a Netflix limited series written by Jack Thorne. As an executive producer and director of early episodes, Chazelle once again injects his love for jazz onto the screen but with a much grittier and realistic perspective. The Eddy focuses on a jazz club in Paris of the same name and follows the sprawling cast of characters centered around that club. Netflix does not fail to disappoint with a series that is worth the binge for the music alone.
It would be a mistake to start watching The Eddy expecting similarities to Chazelle’s previous jazz-centric films. You’d be hardpressed to find the fantastic and whimsical qualities of La La Land in this Netflix series. Chazelle instead offers a grounded approach to the themes of success and ambition reflected by the writing and directing. The same handheld camerawork present in First Man is utilized again by Chazelle in the first two episodes and sets the precedent for the remainder of the series. The characters and settings that populate The Eddy are extremely flawed, complex, and unique. It only makes sense for them to be filmed in a way that emphasizes that depth. This choice of cinematography also highlights the darker, less romanticized part of Paris that is sadly the cold reality for those characters.
But just because those characters are complex and realistic doesn’t necessarily mean they’re incredibly captivating. Each episode of The Eddy focuses on a different character and gives insights into their personal lives separate from the jazz club. This works both for and against the show’s favor. There are really only three to four characters I found interesting enough to support their own episode. Even though Damien Chazelle and Jack Thorne do an admirable job of making you care about some of the lesser characters, it’s hard to connect to the subplots that have little to do with the rest of the story. For example, an episode dedicated to the club’s bass player spends a significant portion of the runtime on his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. While this does result in a cathartic payoff by the end of the episode, I do wish there was a stronger focus on the overarching plotline. Another problem with this method of storytelling is that characters and plot lines that you do care about get sidelined when the focus isn’t entirely on them.
On the other hand, this character-driven episodic approach creates some of the best moments in the series. One of the later episodes focuses on the club’s drummer and her struggles with financially supporting her sick father. Even though this subplot has nothing to do with the other characters, it provides satisfying context for other moments in the series and genuinely makes you care for an otherwise nameless character up to that point. And even for the episodes with weaker subplots, the show recognizes the need to still represent the stronger characters. Even if you find annoyance with a particularly mundane plotline, there is enough time spent elsewhere to keep you invested throughout. While I wish the show took a more narrow approach to its storytelling and character subplots, I do love how just like a jazz band, each character has a significant part to play in the final product, significant or not.
While the series does sometimes lose focus because of its method of storytelling, there always one consistent factor that ties it all together: jazz. It’s no surprise that a show about jazz from the guy who made Whiplash and La La Land is easily the best thing about it. The passion for jazz shared by Damien Chazelle, Jack Thorne, and the whole cast and crew is so eloquently expressed onscreen in all of its many musical sequences. Jazz is not only utilized as a musical aesthetic, but it also shapes and grows the characters of the series. We see how each of them relates to jazz through different instruments, styles, and cross-genres. For some, jazz is the only escape from their many problems. For others, jazz represents a part of the past that they want to let go of. The best parts of the show rely less on dialogue and more on jazz to portray character thoughts and emotions. This is best utilized in Episode Seven where the audio of the band’s recording session overplays several different characters’ journeys, which reflects the changing of the music throughout the episode. Needless to say, I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat since the first episode.
If jazz is the best part about the series, the worst thing by far is a strange crime/mystery subplot that takes up almost half the runtime. A murder that transpires in the first episode has ripple effects lasting the remaining seven episodes. This leads to revelations of corruption, counterfeiting, police investigation, and character grievances all centered around the jazz club. While this subplot mostly serves to create drama and conflict between characters, its inclusion felt hamstrung and unnecessary. I dearly wish they had reduced its importance in the story or not included it at all in favor of the much more interesting and heartfelt jazz-centric storyline. The crime subplot is most unforgivable in the last episode when one of the best scenes in the series is cut short with an event linked to this storyline, which doesn’t even conclude in a definitive or satisfying way. Luckily, the show still manages to have a rewarding ending that ties together most of the other loose threads and subplots.
What disappoints me most about the series is the fact that Netflix doesn’t seem to care enough about it. Other than a trailer and a few tweets promoting the release, I’ve seen nothing across Netflix’s platforms endorsing The Eddy. I didn’t even see anything on the front page of the website the day of its release, forcing me to trudge through the search bar. It’s a shame that when Netflix gets a unique series on their hands that isn’t made to spoonfeed the general audience, they don’t make any effort to display it.
While it’s not a show that will leave you on the edge of your seat, The Eddy is a unique limited series with enough spectacular jazz sequences to tide Damien Chazelle fans over until his next feature. Please give it a watch and recommend it to your friends if you enjoy. –Caleb Sadd
Rating – 7.5/10
The Eddy is now available to stream on Netflix.