The Eddy Review: Many Notes Short of Being A Perfect Melody

The Eddy Review:  Many Notes Short of Being A Perfect Melody
Movie Rated
French, Arabic & English


In this vibrant musical drama Elliot Udo, a once-celebrated musician from New York, is running a small Jazz club called The Eddy in a multicultural neighbourhood in modern-day Paris. He is struggling to keep the club open, manage the house band and deal with his past. When he finds out that his partner is involved in questionable business practices things start to spin out of control.

Format: Limited Series
Platform: Netflix
Movie Rated: 18+ (Language, Sex, Nudity, Substance)
Genre: Drama, Music, Musical      


In Damien Chazelle’s masterful La La Land, Ryan Gosling says that jazz is “conflict, and it’s compromised, and it’s very, very exciting.” In Netflix’s The Eddy (for which Chazelle sets the tone by helming the first two episodes and also serves as executive producer), there is a lot… and I mean a lot of conflicts. There is plenty of compromise for its characters who are both passionate but broken. But is there excitement? Well, there’s plenty of opportunities to ‘jazz it up,’ as they say when the members of ‘The Eddy,’ a group of musicians come together to make beautiful music. But is there enough excitement to keep us hooked through the eight-episode (each episode at more than an hour-long) season? Well, as they say in Paris… comme ci, comme ca (so-so).
In the early scenes of the show, we are introduced to a struggling Parisian jazz club where the now has-been pianist Elliott has written a new song which he wants his band, The Eddy, to perform. In spite of numerous attempts by lead singer Maja to give him the tone, pitch and pacing that he wants, Elliott is unhappy and keeps asking them to increase the tempo and up the pitch. This may as well be the feeling that looms over this slow-burn show with some moments of great synergy, while others… just flat and out of sync. 
Elliott is played by Andre Holland, (of Moonlight fame) who manages the club with his business partner Farid (Tahar Rahim). The club has its daily patrons but doesn’t gather too many new customers. Debts are building up when tragedy strikes and Farid is killed suddenly. In the midst of all of this, Elliott’s daughter from his unsuccessful marriage has landed up in Paris, perhaps to reconnect with her father as much as to escape her troubles back home. Over the course of the eight episodes, each character gets a spotlight where the club is no longer a focus of the story, but it’s okay because it’s important for us to understand where the passion comes from. The trouble is that Elliott is unfocussed too. He is facing pressure from the police and the mafia, which makes the plot unnecessarily complicated. The only arc that keeps The Eddy together is the estranged relationship between him and his daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg), which completes a full circle as the finale approaches. 


Do you imagine a more relaxed lounge setting when you first heard of The Eddy, a show based on jazz? Well, this isn’t a picture-perfect Paris from the ‘50s. Hell, it isn’t even a contemporary postcard. Paris is a city of immigrants who live far from the central hustle-bustle. The idea to create music in Paris is certainly ‘Romantic,’ but the lives of the people is far from it. There are misery and an unromantic view of the city and the only point where we find a semblance of hope is when the band is making music. This is the show’s major strength, that it finds small moments of realism like a wedding gig where their music is unexpectedly unpopular, or when the bank refuses them the dough due to unfamiliarity, and smaller moments of joy (the finale music is full of allusions to the stories so far). It is also a great achievement in showcasing the diversity in a modern city, and the fact that it is just a simple fact of life there.  

On the flip side, the core mystery that is running across the show is its weakest link. Farid’s illicit dealings are what puts Elliott in the middle of a goose chase from the law and the mafia. Each episode often trails off into this plot, leaving aside the character development we have noticed for the band. And trail off it does with a complete fizzle. That it is easy to just skip those parts ahead due to their superficial and snail-paced nature makes you feel that there is something lacking in every episode. It is also at this time when the musicality of the show is completely abandoned (in fact, the club remains closed for several days in the middle) as if it will only come back to pull the plot back together, not propel it forward. Occasionally, the realistic look of the show doesn’t match its action, subplots are melodramatic and cliched. How everything culminates into a positive ending makes little sense when you think of all the depressing misery the characters have faced so far (and so have you). 
In the end, The Eddy feels a bit confused if it was going for ‘crime thriller’ or ‘musical drama’ because it doesn’t completely feel like either or both. 


For each episode structured like a character study, the performances are very impressive and diverse, especially since most of the actors have multiple jobs - act, sing, toggle between languages. Holland is the standout performance, showcasing the right amount of restraint and devastation over what he has gone through so far. But he is often quite vile and unlikable, within the plot, jaded and irritable. But even in those moments, we do not feel like switching off from his frustration. Joanna Kulig (from Cold War) as Maja shines through her musical sequences. Leila Bekhti and Tahar Rahim share immense chemistry in just a few minutes, unfortunate that it is prematurely cut off. The real tragedy is what is given to Stenberg, a competent performer who has previously done films like Everything, Everything. The actress has an effervescent sensitive presence as always. But her relationship with Elliott is trivialised immensely till it reaches a quick wrap pre-finale. And since it is just a screaming match between the two of them, she comes across as brattish and screechy. The script does her no justice. 

It is fairly evident that Damien Chazelle (who clearly loves jazz) has tried to give the story a nuanced visual style with the first two episodes (more on that later). The trouble with not having Chazelle helm the rest of the episodes in a limited series is that The Eddy feels a bit off-post episode 3, like as if the raw grit and seediness of part of the Parisian nightlife has been completely abandoned. There are fewer performances (even though songs are used in their entirety, which is great) and then that criminal subplot is back. The screenplay is rather unfocused where it seems the show starts off with many themes and points which are either forgotten or brushed off by the end. It is extremely unclear as to whether that is done with the hope that they can be picked up in season 2. 
The Eddy also gives no socio-economic context to the multicultural diversity of contemporary Paris, neither does it give historical context to its love for music, jazz in particular. This seems like a wasted opportunity from a perspective of outsiders not only watching the show but also serving as core characters. The omission of these elements makes the length of each episode unjustifiable. 
If the intention is to solely focus on a few individuals and how their passion for music binds them together, then that is somewhat achieved in the penultimate episode and finale of The Eddy. There is a certain earnestness when the band is performing, their gigs stand out in a way where we give it our complete attention. This is important as in a show which is not essentially a musical, one could easily find this distracting or dull. But we are at the performance, like a live audience, enraptured by the way it is presented to make us feel one with the music. It is a tragedy that the story doesn’t have the same effect. 

Music and Other Departments
As I mentioned that The Eddy isn’t as much a musical as music is a character. It is a real revelation to not use old jazz standards in the soundtrack but completely original music by Glen Ballard. It is a testament to his skill that the show amps it up in excitement when one of his songs is being performed, and how even the story is enhanced as a character goes into it. Real musicians play character roles to add authenticity. Unless you are vehemently against jazz, it would be difficult to imagine that you won’t be looking up with a soundtrack once you’re done watching. 

Shot in a handheld style, every frame of The Eddy looks like a cinematic masterpiece, especially since it is going for some genre-bending with musical thriller drama, all of which requires a certain grittiness to the look and texture of the frame. There are many close up shots of the band while they perform. Chazelle shoots his episodes on 16mm (which may be a first for Netflix) for us to really feel an intimate connection to the proceedings, like as if it's a home video or a documentary. There is some inconsistency in later episodes but that intimacy with characters remains. 


Did I Enjoy It?
Not really. As a big fan of Chazelle’s debut film Whiplash and some parts of La La Land, I fear that I had high expectations from the kind of Hollywood-esque spectacle he could give to the show. I was also expecting a lot more music and cultural history to pivot the plot. And while the show is visually stunning and has a great soundtrack, it doesn’t really go beyond that. 

Do I Recommend It?
Unless you are a massive jazz-head who has just yearned for the sheer representation of your kin in this kind of television, The Eddy may be too superficial and tedious for you. It is avoidable for anyone who isn’t into musicals. 


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