Paul Weitz, director of teenage sex education film American Pie, has just witnessed the unveiling of his Amazon Prime series Mozart in the Jungle, but let’s get one thing straight. It has nothing to do with the great composer.
The inspiration behind the series comes from Blair Tindall’s 2005 memoir of life as a professional oboist.
In Weitz’s production, viewers watch girl next-door amateur musician Hailey (Lola Kirke) and her amusing journey playing for phantom orchestra, the New York Symphony after impressing new, young and eclectic maestro Roderigo (Gael García Bernal) with his bohemian hair and unconventional charm.
Rodrigo, the supposed rebel conductor is animated, passionate, and South American, which sounds like exotic heartthrob qualities, but, honesty, there is nothing fiery or magical about him besides his outlandishness.
What may seem like an insight into classical music orchestras is, in actual fact, just a nicely filmed, pictorial drama set in sunny Manhattan.
The terminology isn’t designed to wow classical music experts or professionals either: those in the field would despise the show, any way, given the numerous musical inaccuracies from cast members holding their instruments incorrectly to gleaming over some misguiding generalisations about how orchestras are run.
The feedback for Mozart in the Jungle however is surprisingly positive. Many, including myself, agree that the show gives viewers something to entertain them.
All episodes are available in bite size chunks, as little as half an hour of your precious time, with uninteresting titles.
There are other attractive characters in addition to the maestro and oboist. There are such characters as the veteran and former conductor Thomas (Malcolm McDowell) and orchestra’s cellist Cynthia (Saffron Burrows)who spices up the sex and humour of the show with their clandestine affair. She also lets off steam by shagging other colleagues in the orchestra, which she admits to Hailey and gives a spiel about musicians having sex the same way they play their instruments. Funny!
There is also Hailey’s adorable love interest: a dancer (Peter Vack) and her neuroses with potty mouth flat mate Lizzie (Hannah Dunne).
The initial trailer of Mozart in the Jungle is misleading as well; one would think that the show would probe into the enlightened maestro tearing down classical music barriers with the orchestra yet little do newbies of classical music know that conductors gain their pedigree from other things but innovation and blind faith creativity: musicians have to dedicate years, from childhood, to perfect their trade and regretfully the programme leaves this unshakable point out.
The show fast forwards to Rodrigo as an already established conductor which limits the sophistication of the show, pushing out any opportunity to make it ingenious and simply succeeding in making it mediocre.
Rodrigo and Hailey’s characters are likable enough that viewers will ask ‘how did they get there?’ or ‘how did they get to their musical level?’ Very little is explored about Hailey’s educational background with the oboe as well.
It is undeniable that the book, and the series, attempts to provide positive inspiration, but this pertinent link is missing.
The beautiful shots, picturesque settings, particularly in episode 7: ‘You go to my Head’, of a rose garden party and some scenes of orchestral rehearsals with conductors may give viewers teeny tiny glimpses of orchestras in real life; besides that there is nothing to glorify it but the show’s passable TV value.
The lighthearted humour is intact; the programme may make you smile. And there are lukewarm dramatic moments where characters fall and crumble.
If there, really, is nothing else on television and, for some reason, you can’t watch anything else, then I guess you could watch this, but it is not life changing as Breaking Bad – they are worlds apart. Nor is it as intense and sentimental as the other Amazon Prime series, Transparent.
Another let down is a tacky scene with the ghost of Mozart turning up in the New York library to spook out our maestro. He has an American accent, wears a white 17th century wig with all the frills of a traditional costume. What a load of rubbish!