A little known fact about me: when I was a teenager I was obsessed with performing music and my dream was to go to New York City and train at Julliard.
Life got in the way and that never happened. But tonight I got a look into what my life might have been like had it happened when I binge watched the new Amazon original series, “Mozart In the Jungle.”
Amazon debuted the first season, all 10 episodes, online on Tuesday, December 23, 2014. Each episode clocks in at around 30 minutes, but are so good you wish they were longer.
“Mozart In the Jungle” is based on the acclaimed memoir, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall. The story starts as the New York symphony orchestra is in the middle of a transition from the current long-time maestro, Thomas (Malcolm McDowel), to the new wildly eccentric maestro Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal), hired to breathe new life into the symphony by the chairwoman of the symphony orchestra’s board, Gloria (Bernadette Peters)
Our guide into this world is Hailey (Lola Kirke), a young oboist who yearns for a chair on the symphony, but like all true artists, struggles to pay rent and ends up doing odd jobs to get to where she needs to be.
Hailey makes a friend in Cynthia (Saffron Burrows), a cellist in the symphony who proves to be an ally in getting Hailey’s foot in the door. It turns out Cynthia, who has been in the symphony a long time, also has more than a professional relationship with the outgoing maestro.
Through Hailey’s eyes, we learn about the lives of these working musicians, and their mind-set of sacrificing whatever they have to to make it and keep it made.
Bernal is amazing in the way he infuses Rodrigo with passion and magnetism, and becomes the driving force for the show. You understand how, even as unconventional as his ideas are, people want to follow him.
Kirke is also wonderful in her role as the ingenue getting a chance to peek into this wonderfully strange and eclectic world of personalities that makes the symphony run. Her side story with her best friend/roommate Lizzie is also a delight.
McDowell takes what could be a one-note egotistical leader of the orchestra on his way out, and turns it into a nuanced portrayal of aging and trying to hold on to your creativity when everyone thinks you’re on your last legs.
I won’t lie – it was also a delight to see Peters on screen, playing a role seemingly crafted for her. I’ve loved her artistry ever since I first saw her in “The Jerk” in the 70s. She’s also had quite a career on the stage, which lends itself to her role in this series.
Created by Paul Weitz (About A Boy), Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom) and Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher), “Mozart In the Jungle,” is an exciting look into the world of classical musicians with a great cast that makes their characters multi-dimensional. It’s quirky, funny, bittersweet, and mesmerizing.
Bravissimo Amazon Studios! You really have a winner with this series. I can’t wait until Season Two!
The entire first season of “Mozart In the Jungle” is available online at Amazon for streaming, with the Pilot episode available for FREE.
Here is the trailer to give you a taste of what to expect:
[images courtesy of Amazon Studios]
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