Amazon

Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle

Originally based on the book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall, the Amazon Prime Original series, now in its fourth season, explores the personal and professional lives of members of the New York Symphony.

 

Our story begins with young, passionate, acclaimed conductor Rodrigo De Souza (Gael Garcia Bernal) replacing seasoned veteran Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell) as conductor and musical director of the orchestra, a move that is not amiably received by Mr. Pembridge, despite outward appearances. At the same time, young oboist Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke) is navigating her way through the New York musical maze. The two worlds collide when Rodrigo hosts an open audition for a new oboist, and Hailey takes her shot.

 

If you think that a show about classical musicians sounds dull, well that’s exactly what the show’s creators want you to think going in. Season One is pretty much dedicated to dispelling the myth that, just because people can create sophisticated, exquisitely refined music, doesn’t mean they possess those qualities as human beings. As the book title promises, there’s plenty of sex, drugs, and classical music to go around. You don’t have to love classical music to enjoy the show, but fans will surely enjoy listening to this show as much as watching it—especially through a higher-quality sound system.

Mozart in the Jungle

As entertaining as the first season is, the show really finds its voice and its heart in Season Two—in part because it takes a slightly softer tone and starts to embrace its “weird.” Let’s face it, creative people are kind of weird. That weirdness drives their passion but also makes personal relationships a challenge.

 

Rodrigo is the poster child of weird, and Gael Garcia Bernal plays him with such sweetness and vulnerability that you can’t help but fall in love with him. (Both the show and Bernal earned Golden Globes for Season Two.) Each season brings its own challenges and adventures, but the show never loses sight of its primary conflict: Being true to yourself versus being what others need or want you to be.

 

Above all, Mozart in the Jungle is a love letter to the creative process—be it music, art, dance, etc. It’s about chasing dreams, finding your muse, and how to keep the passion alive above the politics. Yet, despite these weighty themes, the show never takes itself too seriously. It’s fun, whimsical, and sometimes downright silly. This weirdo absolutely loves it.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer
than she’s willing to admit. She is currently the managing editor and video specialist
at HomeTheaterReview.com. Adrienne lives in Colorado, where she spends far too
much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough time being in them.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

I had offered to review the Amazon original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel even before the show took home two Golden Globes earlier this week. I just wanted to spread the word about how fantastic this show is. I’m guessing those two awards—for Best Show and Best Actress in the “Television Series, Musical or Comedy” category—will do that far better than I can, but, hey, I’m going to make my case anyhow.

 

Set in 1950s Manhattan, the show tells the story of Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a devoted wife and mother who tends to the every need of her husband Joel, a salesman who aspires to be a stand-up comedian. When she’s not measuring her thighs (can’t gain too much weight, after all) or getting up before dawn to apply her makeup (can’t let the man see your real face, after all), she’s using her quick wit, effortless charm, and great cooking skills to get Joel a better time slot at the Gaslight comedy club or to convince the rabbi to join the family for Yom Kippur dinner.

 

Midge’s world suddenly turns upside down when, after a particularly bad set at the Gaslight, Joel announces that he’s leaving her. After a bit too much wine and a late-night subway ride, Midge finds herself at the club, on the stage, doing her own set. Surprise, surprise—she’s actually the funny one, and aspiring manager Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein) is determined to make her a star.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

As one would hope, this show about stand-up comedy has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has a similar penchant for snappy, fast-paced dialogue and delightfully quirky characters. But this show also has a sharper edge to it, both in its humor and tone, as it explores what it means to be a woman in the ’50s. Midge is finally free to figure out who she is, but are the people in her life ready to accept the real her? Is society?

 

Brosnahan shines as Midge from the get-go, but what I enjoyed the most was watching the supporting players—who are drawn with broad, almost stereotypical strokes in the pilot—gain form and substance in their own right. Tony Shalhoub is especially good (when isn’t he?) as Midge’s father, Abe. At the end of Season One, the one-woman show has evolved into a strong ensemble piece with only one real flaweight episodes just ain’t enough.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer
than she’s willing to admit. She is currently the managing editor and video specialist
at HomeTheaterReview.com. Adrienne lives in Colorado, where she spends far too
much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough time being in them.