Pop Culturing: The Blues Soundtrack Netflix's Unconventional Murder Mystery 'The Eddy'

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday May 8, 2020

Andrè Holland, left, and Tahar Rahim, right, in a scene from "The Eddy."
Andrè Holland, left, and Tahar Rahim, right, in a scene from "The Eddy."  (Source:Lou Faulon/Netflix)

With Netflix seemingly focusing on releasing broad and big-budgeted TV series (like "Hollywood" and the upcoming Steve Carrell starrer "Space Force"), and films ("6 Underground," "Extraction"), "The Eddy," an atmospheric and niche show that's emotional and sophisticated, feels like a miracle. It's a family drama that quickly gives way and becomes a murder mystery of sorts that's set in the dark-lit alleys of Paris's jazz scene.

Setting the show's tone is Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle, who won during the iconic 89th Academy Awards ceremony for his big-budget and starry musical "La La Land." But "The Eddy," created by British screenwriter and playwright Jack Throne (who has writing credits on all eight episodes of this limited series), is a somber tale and Chazelle dials things back and plugs into the blues. Though Chazelle has shown off what he can do on the big screen, like winking at the MGM musicals of yesteryear and creating breathtaking set pieces as in his 2018 emotionally-driven Neil Armstrong biopic "First Man," he opts for a French New Wave style of filmmaking with "The Eddy," which also marks his first dip into TV. Like his breakthrough film "Whiplash" (about a mentally and physically abusive music teacher and his driven high school student, played by J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, respectively), "The Eddy" is an intimate and personal story told on a similar scale. Chazelle helms the first two episodes of the series, utilizing natural lighting, a shaky camera and lots of closeups, and like the greats of the French New Wave, "The Eddy" often feels like a docuseries. It also helps the drama is carried on the shoulders of Andrè Holland ("Moonlight," "The Knick"), who has never been less than interesting and is one of America's best actors going.

Amandla Stenberg, left, and André Holland, right, in a scene from "The Eddy." Photo credit: Lou Faulon/Netflix

In "The Eddy," Holland plays Elliot Udo, an ex-pat living in Paris and running the titular jazz club. He's got a troubled past, leaving behind his problems in America to live the life he wants in the City of Lights. He's a famous jazz pianist but has since retired after the death of his son. Now divorced, he's focused on running The Eddy with a house band and his business partner / best friend Farid (Tahar Rahim). But the club is struggling and folks aren't flocking to see the Elliot-assembled band, with lead singer Maja ("Cold War" breakout Joanna Kulig). It's soon revealed that Farid might be cooking the books and making some shady deals. On top of that, someone is murdered just as Elliott's teen daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) is about to come and live with him, propelling "The Eddy" into its main narrative.

Each episode of "The Eddy" is named after a character in the show and mostly follows that person's point of view but Elliot is always at the center of the show — and rightfully so. Holland is exceptional here; he's flexible and emotes perfectly and is essentially the show's driving force, which can feel weighty when it veers off its central plot. Like in the third episode, which is centered on Julie. She's dealing with adjusting to a school in a new city — and country — and reconciling her feelings with her father. She's also dealing with the reason why she left her mom and stepfather's home in America. She soon lashes out and gives into her self-destructive behavior only adding stress to Elliot's life, which has been completely turned upside down.

Andrè Holland, left, and Joanna Kulig, right, in a scene from "The Eddy." Photo credit: Lou Faulon/Netflix

At times, "The Eddy" can get too into the weeds. There are beautiful scenes that play out showcasing a side of Paris we rarely see; often spotlighting its Muslim communities. For how dreary the show can feel, it is often balanced with life and beauty. At the funeral of said person who is murdered, the somber event quickly transforms into a New Orleans-style of celebration when members of The Eddy's house band, including Maja, begin to celebrate the person's life with free-flowing jazz.

After Chazelle's first two establishing episodes, French filmmaker Houda Benyamina, best known for her 2016 Cannes Film Festival hit "Divines," takes over. Then director Laïla Marrakchi, who earned recognition at the 2005 Cannes Festival with her film "Marock," takes the reigns. Finishing out the series is veteran TV director Alan Poul ("Tales of the City," "The Newsroom"). The same style is mostly kept throughout the rest of the series, capturing what feels like off-the-cuff real-life moments that soundtracked by a beautiful score. There are no gimmicks in "The Eddy." No camera manipulation or manipulative story devices. It's an authentic experience from the first note you hear.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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