Netflix have bagged quite the coup with The Eddy. An eight-episode drama, it sees filmmaker Damien Chazelle – who gave us the joy of sticks in Whiplash and bittersweet musical La La Land – take to the TV serial format for the very first time. He directs the opening two episodes of this series, which is based around an owner of a Parisian jazz club and the chaos that surrounds him.
It opens with jazz club owner and bandleader Elliot Udo (Moonlight’s André Holland) carrying a bucket of ice through a door and into his bustling club, The Eddy. He weaves his way to a table where his business partner, Farid (A Prophet’s Tahir Rahim), sits. Nerves hang in the air. Small record label owner Franck Levy is in attendance watching Udo’s house band. But something is amiss. The band isn’t firing on all cylinders. Singer Maja (Joanna Kulig – Cold War) is lacklustre and out of puff. Farid and Elliot speculate that it could be tiredness but have they missed their big moment? Outside, Elliot tries to reassure Franck that they can be better.
Farid is a charming chap — laidback, louche and in charge of keeping The Eddy’s books. But his chilled-out vibe is perhaps not a perfect fit for responsibility. Indeed, he has failed to keep up payments to some shady suppliers. Although club owner Elliot couldn’t care less for bookkeeping, he faces the sharp end of Farid’s failure. Elliot is more focused on the music. He also has to handle the arrival of his teenage daughter, Julie (a brilliant Amandla Stenberg – The Hate U Give) from New York. Her errant behaviour becomes increasingly problematic and the focus of episode two. Fearless, wilful and streetwise, she dares to venture down the darkest passages and side streets.
The calibre of the team behind The Eddy is dazzling. Chazelle aside, the prolific Jack Thorne – one-time Skins scribbler and the man who adapted His Dark Materials – has taken up writing duties and Glen Ballard (co-writer of the songs on Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’) has written the tunes alongside Randy Kerber. All of the band’s music was recorded live, too. “We were all wading into unchartered waters because it’s harder to do it this way,” said Ballard at a Q&A during Berlin International Film Festival. “We had a recording studio behind the stage and our band would sometimes play live for eight hours whilst all this action was going on.”
The febrile sensuousness of jazz fits Damien Chazelle like a tailored tuxedo. After the flat Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, he is back in Whiplash territory and he’s loving every second. He drives his camera with devil-may-care rumbustiousness, weaving through club crowds and into the melee. The effect is visceral; the action within spitting distance of a tinkled key, a parping horn or a bobbing bass line. The venue is dimly lit, houses a smattering of small tables and a tiny bar. When the band is in full swing and the space is packed with punters, The Eddy is a delightfully giddy, sweat-drenched hub. It’s the place you want to be. Somewhere you want to spend time in.
This series promises many things: music, mayhem, passion and pathos. It’s all about characters fitting in, moving on, inner-city struggles and the love of music. Tasty dialogue and brilliant performances abound too. The drama delivers cast-iron authenticity and a peek at Paris from all angles. You get the edge – the grime and the dirt – as well as the picture postcard stereotype.
— Jorja Smith (@JorjaSmith) May 1, 2020
Whilst the first episode finds the right key, it is the second episode that locks into a perfect tempo. The characters take shape and the story takes off. “If you can’t be good, be notorious,” says Elliot Udo. The Eddy is both. This might just be 2020’s best new show.
‘The Eddy’ is streaming on Netflix now