The Eddy — an off-centre jazz scene drowning in multiple plots

May 30, 2020

Set in a rough Parisian suburb, The Eddy portrays a milieu of musicians whose fates intertwine as they enter a band and get together to perform at the jazz club owned jointly by despondent, world-weary pianist Elliot (André Holland) and his friend Farid (Tahar Rahim), who musters optimism about the business’s future despite increasing hindrances. The titular venue emerges in the series as a residue of what once was the embodiment of Eliot’s dreams about leaving behind the New York traumas and going abroad to invent himself from scratch. Co-directed by Damien Chazelle, the series is far from the recast of La La Land’s musing overtone. In this darksome portrait of a troubled bohemian scene comprising of eminent musicians such as Randy Kerber, Damian Nueva or Lada Obradovic, the characters are past the idealism of youth, tackling the disillusionment and reassessing outcomes of their life choices. The series shakes off the remnants of a reverie as the illegal transactions come forward, urging Elliot to finally face the problems of a thinning audience, unsettled payments, and inner conflicts of his band. As Farid’s shady acquaintances derail the free-flowing life of the club, troubles and confusion weigh on the band provoking conflicts as if the unresolved bitterness of Elliot’s on-off affair with the lead singer Maja (Joanna Kulig) has not cooled the atmosphere among members enough already.

 Credit: allocine.fr

 

The vicissitudes of settling into a foreign land, confronting family tensions and bereavement come to the forefront in the eight episodes, each structured around a different character’s situation. Besides the creative space which unites musicians in the evenings and sets the scene for seeing their problems in a collective framework, the stories share an underlying nostalgia and longing, be that for the reconcilement with a loss which prevents Elliot from playing, or a genuine human bond sought by his daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) recovering from sexual abuse and drug addiction. Yet, most of these weighty topics are merely dropped in, calling for a more profound visual exploration which could be achieved if the series shifted its focus from the overemphasized, ineptly handled crime plot to the protagonists’ emotional backgrounds at length. The script written by prolific playwright Jack Thorne abounds in twists and turns of the club’s money debt to callous drug-dealers, stretching tediously across the series and out of sync with each episode’s subject matter. In doing so, it renders the multi-ethnic environment of a suburban Paris and the characters’ passion for music only cursorily, giving a sense of a severe underexposure of the very core of the story. The Eddy delivers an overstuffed, sketchy plot, touching upon numerous threads which in turns keeps the crux of the story underdeveloped. The quintessence of this is André Holland’s role as Elliot: upholding the series’ musical world as a bandleader and club owner, the protagonist’s passion for jazz seems to have no causal link with the gangster plot and family issues.

Credit: allocine.fr

 

The series is most riveting when it stays dedicated to conveying its belief in the moving vitality of music. An informal concert organized by the band feels incomparable, the ephemeral, grittily consoling spirit of not simply creating together but forming one’s part in a collective sensitivity and preserving it through music. Although at times the series neglects the exploration of this energy in favour of thickening the gangster plot, it still draws its strengths from the portrayal of vigorous individuals, and their sense of unity as a thriving band in spite of mundane pitfalls. Elegantly woven into the portrait of the life of the band is the choice of songs which captivates with the instrumental richness and Joanna Kulig’s lively, enthralling voice. Music written by Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber especially for The Eddy is performed in the series in full length, maintaining a dialogue with the characters’ emotions and allowing them to unfold in the viewer’s mind while taking a break from an over-the-top storyline. The Eddy in the end attempts to do too many things at once. The series expands multiple plots which clash or appear haphazard more often than they manage to intertwine. Amidst the chaotic storyline, the portrayal of an off-beat jazz scene saves the show without coming across as game-changing.

 

Edited by Juliette Howard, Deputy Film Editor

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