If you like your classical music combined with sex, drugs and crazy behavior, Mozart in the Jungle based on the book of the
of the same name, may just be your thing.
Hailey (Lola Kirke) is an oft ridiculed oboe instructor to rich young kids. She a talented performer but knows she is not yet New York Symphony Orchestra material. After meeting a Cynthia (Saffron Burroughs) at a side gig, Hailey gets some interesting information. The only Maestro Thomas (Malcolm McDowell) is out and Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) is in. Rodrigo also just so happens to be auditioning talented new musicians with heart. Gloria (Bernadette Peters) is the director of the Symphony with an eye on money coming in an a desire to maintain her cool and keep Rodrigo from taking the Symphony past what the elderly patrons can handle. Hailey make a great impression on Rodrigo, but a horrible impression on the symphony when she drops her oboe mid-practice and yells the mother of all curse words. Rodrigo agrees she must be let go as a musician, but after he catches her giving a major truth-sermon to the staff of the symphony he insist on keeping her on as his personal assistant. The show follows the struggles of the symphony, Thomas’ desperate attempts to keep his identity, Rodrigo’s search for meaning and reconciliation with an insane wife and Hailey’s (or Hai Lai as she is nicknamed by Rodrigo) attempts to live her dream and keep sane in the process.
Or Joshua Bell just sort of showing up.
When I first sat down to stream Mozart in the Jungle I will admit it was entirely for Bernadette Peters. It didn’t hurt that Malcolm McDowell and Gael Garcia Bernal are also favorite actors of mine. Like a symphony, the cast works together to create something incredibly powerful. While for these segments I normally do a complete breakdown of what to look for, I find myself unable to separate the good from the bad. All the pieces play together. While you are horrified that a man is naked in Hailey’s bed with an oboe despite telling her he just wanted lessons, you are overwhelmed by the 1812 Overture being played an abandoned lot between buildings. Hailey’s difficult relationship with the gorgeous male dancer Alex is awkward, but when compared to her roommate singing Billy Holiday’s “You Go to My Head,” all is quickly forgiven. The show just works. Every actor holds their own, showing both believable mistakes and accidentally beautiful triumphs. Anna Maria ( Nora Arnezeder) plays the brilliant violinist and combative activist wife of Rodrigo. She is on her own incredible, shooting guns to form notes in a makeshift piece of sheet music in a tree before playing it for adoring fans. She plays gigs at nuclear waste dumps and wears a chastity belt so she can stay focused on her art. She is insane, but strangely captivating.
Mozart in the Jungle features pretty much every adult theme in the book. There are affairs, vivid sex scenes, copious amounts of alcohol and drug use and a great deal of language that children don’t need to hear. If you’re a sensitive viewer or just don’t care for that kind of thing, I’d suggest avoiding Mozart in the Jungle. If you can look past that for some inspiration and classical music, this Amazon Prime show is a great way to spend a couple evenings.
After powering through the show, note by note, I can’t help but still have the theme song (an orchestral version of Listomania by Phoenix but here performed by The Jingle Punks Hipster Orchestra) haunting my brain days later.
Mozart in the Jungle is available on Amazon Prime.