Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 27 November 2020

'The Eddy': Five things to know about the new Netflix music drama

The show drops on the streaming giant on Friday

Amandla Stenberg and Andre Holland star in 'The Eddy'. Netflix
Amandla Stenberg and Andre Holland star in 'The Eddy'. Netflix

The expectations surrounding Netflix’s new music drama, The Eddy, are similar to the anticipation of seeing a hot jazz group take to the stage.

That’s because all the players assembled for the series are on point.

Its co-producer and co-director is none other than Hollywood wunderkind Damien Chazelle, who gave us two seminal films that provided different aspects of the jazz world: 2014’s Whiplash and 2016’s La La Land.

He is joined by series scriptwriter Jack Thorne, the Bafta award-winner behind Shameless and This is England '88, and music supervisor Glen Ballard, who also happens to be a six-time Grammy Award winner.

With all that creative heat on offer, The Eddy will surely be an enduring hit, right? Well, it all depends on how you approach it.

With the show arriving on Netflix on Friday, here are five things you need to know about the anticipated series.

1. 'The Eddy' is not a musical

It's a drama, with a lot of music in it.

We follow the travails of Elliot (Andre Holland), an anguished cult jazz figure in the US, who moves to Paris to launch a music venue called The Eddy. Over the eight episodes, his life unravels on both business and domestic fronts. People in the French underworld come after him because of his outstanding debts, his relationship with his troubled daughter, Julie (Amandla Stenberg), becomes frayed and the club is on the verge of shutting down.

In many ways, this recipe has been followed in other musically inclined series, such as the hip-hop-inspired Power and Empire, but the drama here is not for cheap thrills.

Each episode ups the ante as we see the screws tighten on Elliot's life. His – and, in turn, the audience’s – only reprieve comes with the music heard in The Eddy. The highlights of each episode are the jazz performances in the back-alley venue. They range from smooth standards to explosive crescendos. The music plays a key role throughout the series; it brings the show to life as the pace begins to lag and soothes us after some particularly harrowing scenes.

2. This is no 'La La Land'

Don’t let the big name on the poster fool you.

While it is understandable that the cornerstone of Netflix’s marketing campaign for The Eddy is director Chazelle's involvement, the Academy Award winner is in no way the driving force behind the show.

He is one of four directors responsible for shooting the eight episodes, all of which bring their own visual flair to the project.

That said, Chazelle does set the tone for the series by directing the opening two episodes.

Shot completely in Paris, the episodes do not show the city of lights we are accustomed to. Instead of the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, Chazelle and his fellow directors are more interested in depicting sights off the tourist trail.

L-R Director Damian Chazelle and actor Andre Holland on the set of The Eddie. Lou Faulon
Director Damian Chazelle, left, and actor Andre Holland, on the set of 'The Eddy'. Lou Faulon

We see the city’s gritty alleyways, the impoverished communities of the Paris banlieues (the French equivalent of the UK's council estates) and we feel the alienation that comes with being an outsider in an established city.

That sense of realism is further underscored through the cinema verite visual style. The use of shaky hand-held cameras, long periods of silence and naturalistic urban sounds gives the show a docu-drama feel.

3. A strong multicultural cast

This is the beauty of an online platform such as Netflix.

With a global audience to cater to, it means its show The Eddy, thankfully, doesn't resort to stereotypes. The multiculturalism of Paris is imbued throughout the series, with cast members hailing from France, the US, the UK, Algeria and West Africa.

Several languages are spoken, with French being the most dominant, followed by English and the darija Arabic dialect spoken by Algerians and Moroccans.

This all works together to not only showcase the vibrancy of Paris, but creates deep moments of pathos when we realise that trauma, loss and heartbreak are things we can all understand, no matter what language we speak.

L-R Andre Holland plays Elliot, the co-owner of the jazz club The Eddie. Polish actress Joanna Kulig plays Maja, the club's in house singer. Lou Faulon
Andre Holland, left, plays Elliot, the co-owner of the jazz club. Polish actress Joanna Kulig plays Maja, the club's in-house singer. Lou Faulon

Leading the cast is Holland, who does a fine job of soulfully portraying the enigmatic yet desperate Elliot. He is amply supported by Stenberg, who plays his on-screen daughter, plus Polish actress Joanna Kulig, who beautifully plays Maja, the singer of The Eddy's in-house band.

Other cast members just had to be themselves; The Eddy boasts a number of real-life jazz cats, most of whom form the club’s in-house band. This includes pianist Randy Kerber, trumpeter Ludovic Louis, drummer Lada Obradovic, saxophonist Jowee Omicil and Damian Nueva Cortes on the double bass.

4. A great showcase of North African talent

The Eddy provides a particular treat for regional viewers, thanks to talents both on and off the screen.

The show's high profile should hopefully give Leila Bekhti the acclaim she deserves. The French-Algerian actress is superb in her role as a struggling single parent who co-owns the jazz club.

She's a rising star in French cinema, with star turns in 2006's Paris, je t'aime and 2010's Tout ce qui brille, and hopefully her rolein The Eddy will bring her talents to an even bigger audience.

She is joined on the show by her real-life husband Tahar Rahim, who plays Elliot's creative business partner, a fun and exuberant presence. Young actor Adil Dehbi also impresses as rapper Sim, who moonlights as a waiter.

Algerian actors Leila Bekhti and Tahar Rahim are some of the North African cast members in The Eddy. Roger Do Minh
Algerian actors Leila Bekhti and Tahar Rahim are some of the North African cast members. Roger Do Minh

In the director's chair, Morocco's Laila Marrakchi (2013’s Rock the Casbah) and Algeria's Houda Benyamina (who won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for best debut feature with 2016’s Divine) direct two episodes each – and their talents shine through.

French Algerian director Houda Benyamina directed two episodes of The Eddy. Lou Faulon
French Algerian director Houda Benyamina directed two episodes of 'The Eddy'. Lou Faulon

It is Benyamina who fully captures the emotional intensity of jazz music in the series. This can be found in the third episode, in a scene that features a music performance at a wake. Benyamina’s camera is at one with the tunes. Through a heady mixture of close-ups, fast cuts and swirling pan shots of mourners looking both anguished and joyful, she encapsulates the catharsis that jazz music presents to the show’s characters. It is a true display of bravura.

5. A show to be savoured

With only eight episodes, the show can easily be consumed within a weekend. However, it is best to take your time and savour the slow burn of The Eddy.

Each episode is an hour long – with the exception of the slightly longer first two – and full of little emotional nuances that could be easily skipped over if you rush through the series.

As with the audience who packs into the fictional club every night, it best to take a seat, relax and simply enjoy the vibes.

Updated: May 11, 2020 11:44 AM

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