Mozart in the Jungle is another series from Amazon, meaning you can’t watch it anywhere but via Amazon streaming. It’s about a symphony orchestra in New York, and while there are missteps, Mozart in the Jungle has great heart, avoiding the sappiness that statement might suggest.
The setting works well or poorly, depending on your perspective. Good for people like me, who know little about the running of a symphony; bad for lovers of classical music, who have been vocal about all of the things Mozart in the Jungle gets “wrong”. I sympathize with the latter … I feel the same way when a series or movie about something I know gets it wrong. But given my lack on knowledge in this case, my enjoyment is unspoiled by complaints about whether Mahler was the proper selection for the orchestra.
Mozart in the Jungle isn’t particularly adventurous … it’s a typical backstage dramedy, unusual because of the setting but mostly settling for the standard plot lines and characters. Gael García Bernal is charismatic as the new maestro, Rodrigo … he personifies the heart at the center of the show, making us believe that he cares passionately about serving the music. Lola Kirke does well as the stand-in for the audience, as an oboe player trying to make her way into the orchestra. (And we’ve come a ways for the Kirke family … when Jemima Kirke got our attention on Girls, it was oft-noted that her father was Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, but now, Lola is described as Jemima’s sister.) There are some other notables in the cast: Malcolm McDowell as the maestro who is replaced by Rodrigo, Bernadette Peters as the chairperson of the symphony board. Both actors refrain from scenery chewing. Saffron Burrows does her “I’m very tall and have great cheekbones” thing, and does it well … once we get past the pilot episode, her performance grows along with her character.
The show takes its time reaching its peak. My favorite of the ten episodes were numbers 6 & 7. #6, “The Rehearsal”, is one that took a lot of flack from the classical fans … Rodrigo drags his orchestra to an abandoned lot and has them play the “1812 Overture”, and I didn’t want to be caught up in the corny tugs at my heart, but I couldn't resist. It was followed by “You Go to My Head”, the one episode that took adventurous chances, and the episode many felt was the best of the season. The final episode of the season is a bit too neat, but if you've stuck around until that point, you’ll be captivated nonetheless.
Near the end, Rodrigo says, “This orchestra is capable of doing amazing things. And we’re not there yet. I know, I know. We will be. But in the meantime, please, bear with us.” It’s a perfect description of this series. Grade for Season One: B+.