In scenes near the beginning of The Eddy, Netflix’s ambitious but flawed series about a struggling Parisian jazz club, the club-owner and once-famous American pianist Elliot Udo broodingly watches the band rehearse – before snapping that the players need to up their tempo. After dragging myself through the first few episodes, I only wish that the show itself had heeded Elliot’s advice.
In a series about striving for that elusive synergy when great musicians come together, The Eddy hits more than its fair share of dud notes, at times feeling off-key, while its disparate parts and characters often seem out of sync with each other, leaving the viewer unsettled and exhausted.
The series follows a group of characters all connected by The Eddy, a jazz club with a poorly-performing jazz band – or at least that’s what owner Elliot (played by Moonlight’s André Holland) thinks. We meet him and his cheerful business partner Fahid (Tahar Rahim) during a typical night at the club, as Elliot glowers up at the stage, angry at the world, while the camera travels around the band and the watching audience.
Despite the glamour that Elliot’s personal fame brings to the table, the club has run into financial difficulty, and the charming but naïve Fahid has turned to a local criminal gang for aid. Elliot’s life is further disrupted by the arrival of his troubled and rebellious teenage daughter Julie (played by Amandla Stenberg, who somehow manages to bring an engaging vulnerability to an otherwise bratty character).
Shot in handheld style, the series looks beautiful – the grainy frames and close-ups of the band playing are like a series of artistic Polaroid pictures. But where the show’s photography is graceful, the various gloomy plotlines feel laboured and plodding – not an easy feat considering that they include a murder investigation and teenage hedonism.
On paper, the show has all the trappings of an exciting, prestige international drama, set against the backdrop of Paris, City of Lights. Hollywood’s Damien Chazelle (the director behind Whiplash and La La Land) exec-produces and also directs the first two episodes, while screenwriter Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, This Is England ’90) oversaw the scripts. But despite its beauty, and the soundtracks’s occasional ear-worms, too often the series feels self-conscious and self-important.
While the show’s title suggests that ‘The Eddy’ should be a focal point in the cast’s lives, a central hubbub or refuge that brings these multi-national characters together, in reality none of them seem particularly invested in the place, not even Elliot, whose primary concern seems to be his financial rather than emotional investment. He worries about the band’s mediocrity, but that’s because he needs the club to break even and so that he and The Eddy can be perceived as a success – not, apparently, for the sake of the music.
Perhaps the characters are part of the problem – so many are just unlikeable, or predictable. Perhaps it’s the lengthy episodes – although really that shouldn’t matter so much, or at least it wouldn’t if the substance was great. And perhaps the show’s release date, in the midst of a lockdown, will count against it. Any viewers searching for escapism and dreamy shots of the Parisian skyline – a slightly grittier, French version of Chazelle’s La La Land – will be disappointed.
Where so many of us right now are searching for upbeat shows to binge-watch, this decidedly downbeat drama may fall short of Netflix’s expectations for it.
The Eddy will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday 8th May. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.