Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pilot Review: Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle
Streaming on Amazon

The fourth of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened is by far the most eclectic and ambitious. Malcolm McDowell, well-trained in the art of chewing scenery, is a famed conductor being pushed out of his position and replaced by Gael Garcia Bernal’s young hotshot. McDowell has done television recently, appearing on “Heroes,” “Entourage,” and “Franklin and Bash” in key high-ranking roles, and this seems like an obvious choice for him. Bernal, on the other hand, is a true surprise, and it’s somewhat of a disappointment given that he’s been better at playing an unsung hero, like in Chile’s “No” from last year, than someone who knows that he’s incredible. The show features another plotline centered on oboist Hailey, played by Lola Kirke, younger sister of Jemima Kirke, currently starring on “Girls.” This Kirke is likeable enough, but most of her plotlines, including lavish music-oriented drinking games and attractive male dancers, leave much to be desired. Saffron Burrows’ Cynthia is much too haughty for her own good, and with Hailey the lone sympathetic character on the show, it’s hard to root for anyone. This feels a lot like “Smash,” which isn’t a good thing, and only occasionally delivers musically enough to make up for its poor writing and overreaching storylines. This one wants to be great, but it shoots too high and ends up being a true mess, one with a few redeeming qualities that just can’t save it.

How would it work as a series? I guess McDowell’s Thomas sticks around enough to continue to comment on how Bernal’s Gustavo is ruining the art, and inevitably there’s going to be a romance between Gustavo and Hailey, which is going to transform both of them in dynamic ways. If the writing improves and most of Hailey’s home life is no longer featured, this could improve.
Will it make it to a series? I think this one was generally better-received, and even if it was thought of as pretentious and excessive, that might be considered a good thing. Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman being behind it definitely helps its chances, though I’m not entirely convinced that it will make the cut.

Pilot grade: C

No comments: