The Eddy feels like the kind of series that only Netflix would shell out the money to make these days: an artsy, atmospheric slice of life set at a Parisian jazz club and shot largely in French that lingers over its characters like stubborn cigarette smoke. Shot in shaky-cam, cinéma vérité style by Oscar winner Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), who directs the first two episodes and serves as an executive producer, The Eddy (debuting Friday, May 8 on the streamer) plays like an indie movie — and, like one, will probably attract a narrow but fiercely passionate following. The four episodes I’ve seen have some narrative kinks to work out, to be sure, but the filmmaking is truly stunning at times, and it manages to capture an energy and a beauty that more polished series can only dream of.
André Holland (The Knick, Castle Rock) stars as Elliot, a famous jazz pianist and owner of the titular club. He’s literally an American in Paris, stumbling through what little French he knows while juggling a complicated relationship with the club’s singer (and his ex) Maja, played by Cold War breakout Joanna Kulig. His co-owner Farid (Tahar Rahim) has some shady business dealings on the side, though, and a tragedy in the pilot episode throws Eliot into an emotional tailspin — but leads to gorgeous catharsis through the power of music.
There’s a lot to like about The Eddy from a pure filmmaking perspective: It’s loosely structured and unusually patient, employing intimate close-ups that allow us to see each tiny gesture in the actors’ faces. It’s highly multicultural, with a cast full of international actors and lots of different languages spoken. But above all, it’s deeply in love with music. Each scene is saturated with music, with full performances playing out for minutes at a time. It romanticizes the life of a musician, but it reveals the pitfalls, too; it shows us how there’s a human hand behind every plunk of the piano. As a series, it’s a lot like the hot-house jazz that emanates out of Elliot’s club: messy, unpredictable, exciting, pulsing with life.
It may be patient to a fault, though; the story meanders a bit as soon as the music stops. Elliot’s American daughter Julie, played by Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give), comes to live with him in Paris, and though Stenberg has real talent, Julie is bratty and headstrong in a way we’ve seen before. Plus, a thoroughly uninteresting crime subplot takes up more and more narrative space in later episodes, and feels like unnecessary clutter. It only gets in the way of The Eddy‘s strong points: the music, and the unfiltered emotional truth found in the scenes when the characters are just talking and living their lives.
Holland is a gifted actor, and I was excited to see him get a meaty lead role to sink his teeth into. But The Eddy‘s brand of storytelling is too fragmented to give him adequate time to shine; it focuses on a different character in each episode, and squanders a great deal of narrative momentum that way. Even with all that, though, there are moments of true beauty to be found here: wounded people processing their pain through music, and finding a way to connect with each other without words. It’s certainly not a show for everyone, or even most people, but like Elliot’s club, The Eddy might attract a loyal crowd just the same.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Damien Chazelle’s Netflix drama The Eddy is an artsy love letter to music that stumbles on story but delivers on emotion.