Amazon, like Netflix, has jumped into the original programming game. Unlike Netflix, Amazon hasn’t scored a buzzy hit like “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” yet. Online streaming services do not release detailed ratings like television networks do. A “hit” really ends up being a show that, for better or for worse, everyone is talking about (see: “Hemlock Grove”). With “Mozart in the Jungle,” Amazon may have found their water cooler moment.
The series is adapted from a memoir with the same name by Blair Tindall. It stars Lola Kirke (sister of “Girls” star Jemima Kirke) as Hailey, a struggling young oboist living in New York City. In a hilarious scene, she’s introduced while playing in the cramped orchestra pit for a musical about Oedipus featuring music by the band Styx. Like so many Millennials; she’s struggling to pay her bills, find joy in her job, and just be a good person. Then she scores an audition with the New York Symphony that could change her life.
While Hailey’s plot is funny and relatable, it’s only half the story. The section of the pilot set at the New York Symphony serves up more than its fair share of juicy drama. The symphony’s seasoned conductor Thomas (Ray Wise) gets pushed out by Rodrigo, a flashy younger one played with gusto by Gael Garcia Bernal. Rodrigo does magic tricks and wants to perform entire shows in the dark, much to the delight of symphony board chair Gloria Windsor (Bernadette Peters).
A cellist in the symphony, Cynthia Taylor (Saffron Burrows), is a standout. While the conductors squabble at a fancy party, she hops a cab to her next job. There she meets Hailey, who she takes under her wing. Frank and to the point, she dishes out sex advice and compliments without much of a segue. Cynthia navigates the symphony world and Hailey’s world without breaking a sweat, and could prove to be the character to watch if the series gets picked up.
Written by Roman Coppola (Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Moonrise Kingdom”), Jason Schwartzman (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Bored to Death” and much more) and Alex Timbers (Tony-nominated director of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson); “Mozart in the Jungle” manages to be funny, a little raunchy and have a heart all at once. The heart comes from the love of music. From scenes at the symphony to a stand out party scene at Hailey’s cramped apartment, music and those who dedicate their lives to it brings this series to life.
Like all Amazon pilots, “Mozart in the Jungle” can be streamed for free at Amazon.com right now. So check it out for yourself.