What do you get if you cross the failed series Smash with the high flying Girls, then situate it in and around The Public Theater on LafayetteStreet and the Upper West Side of New York with classical music as the underlying milieu. Right. You get Mozart in the Jungle, another of the brand new Amazon Instant Video Pilots.
This one debuted on February 5th. It’s not as if it rode into town silently, but to be honest, before today I had never heard of it despite plenty of pr back last fall and in December. What ever they put out flew under the radar for me.
Mozart in the Jungle has a tagline line: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music.It is further described as a look at what happens behind the curtains at the symphony, and it can be just as captivating as what occurs on stage.
From the jump we have a young boy, not even in his teens yet – he’s 12, and he takes oboe lessons from Hailey Rutledge played by Lola Kirke.
This nerdy, bespectacled lad has other things on his mind – like fixating on her lips as she wets the oboe’s reed, or like looking at her cleavage, or imaging his penis was a woodwind instrument. His buddy IM’s him – is your teacher wearing a bra? Oh, those hormonal youngsters.
But we shall leave them and cut to a performance of this fictional New York Symphony Orchestra with real life violinist Josh Bell doing a featured solo. The orchestra is led by its Maestro, Thomas, played by the ever-cranky Malcolm McDowell ,
who looks and sounds like he’s still doing a version of his Terrance McQuewick from Entourage. With this performance, Thomas is conducting his last Symphony. He’s been kicked upstairs to the title of Executive Director of Music Emeritus by the Symphony’s Head Honcho – Gloria Windsor played by Bernadette Peters.
Peters played a Broadway star and super stage mother in Smash. Here, she’s left midtown west and moved uptown into a role not unlike Anjelica Huston’s Eileen Rand in Smash. Gloria has signed on the new boy wonder of all the baton wielders of the classical music biz, Rodrigo, played by Gael Garcia Bernal.
Rodrigo is so full of himself that at the after party, he immediately announces that he will be replacing many of the present members of the orchestra. And of those existing members, they’ll have to audition just to try to keep their jobs.
Meanwhile in that very orchestra pit we have a gorgeous woman, one Cynthia, played by Saffron Burrows,
a young 40 something who is the orchestra’s cellist, and she is sleeping with Thomas. Right after the symphony, Cynthia rushes uptown to Broadway and 48th where she has a 2nd gig – in the orchestra of a fictional Broadway show called Oedipus: The River Styx – which I doubt we will see again. Also in this smaller orchestra is the aforementioned Hailey Rutledge.
They go for a drink – and Cynthia lays it out for Hailey – the waiter is a dancer and dancers have the best bodies. She tells Hailey that there’s a direct correlation between what a man does for a living and how well he fucks. She goes on to describe how the percussionist pounds away like he’s in a porno and it lasts about 10 minutes or so. violinists tend to climax too quickly because of all those arpeggios, and pianists are great for improvisation and ensembles aka menage-a-trois.
Cynthia speaks from empirical evidence and of course, her own first hand experience. Anyway, she splits and makes sure that Alex the waiter is introduced to Hailey the oboist. Alex of course, asks Hailey to go out to a party as he’s getting off work soon. She declines and heads home where she finds her roommate is having a major party.
Joints on a metronome otherwise known as the ganja-nome for hands free toking, plenty of booze, and guess who shows up at this very same party – right it’s Alex. Hailey’s roommate is Lizzie and she’s played by Hannah Dunne who fits into the Lena Dunham niche. Soon Hailey gets dragged into a woodwind competition/drinking game – which involves a spinning bottle and tossing down shots. Never mind that she has an audition with Rodrigo the next morning.
Of course she gets wasted, passes out, over sleeps, arrives at the audition after it is over. Somehow she decides to play to the empty auditorium, and guess what – Rodrigo is still there. He may be occupied with making out with his Asian assistant Sharon, who is played by Jennifer Kim, in the wings but he hears Hailey’s music.
And he’s entranced. Fade out.
This was Mozart in the Jungle and it is billed as a comedy. Some of it was kind of funny, and both Cynthia and Hailey are good-looking. Thomas won’t bow out gracefully as he’s actually called Rodrigo, the boy wonder, a prick to his face.
Of course Rodrigo will set his sights on Hailey. And this will be to no one’s surprise.
Cynthia has already warned her that conductors are ‘complex’. But I’m guessing it is not an if or will Hailey sleep with Rodrigo, but when and in which episode. This show is based on the memoirs of one Blair Tindall who wrote a non-fiction book of the same title and same subject back in 2005.
Turns out the world of classical musical is no different than the world of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Who knew? They just dress better in classical music.
There’s the troika of Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Alex Timbers who get the writing credits. The pilot was directed by Paul Weitz.
If I were a betting man, I’d say that Mozart in the Jungle is not a sure thing. It has a chance to get enough praise so that Amazon will make the series. However I didn’t offer feedback for it like I did for Bosch.
Check out the clip: