Critical Condition: The Get Down

The Get Down (Netflix, from today)

“Baz Luhrmann, the movie director, has brought to Netflix his first television series, and — like his baroque takes on Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby and his pop-musical rewrite of La Traviata, Moulin Rouge — it is a thing by turns, and even simultaneously, ridiculous and sublime, romantic and overwrought and the most genuinely moving precisely when it’s at its corniest. Called The Get Down, it’s a story of old school hip-hop and related arts, set in the late 1970s …  Luhrmann, who directed the feature-length opening episode himself, mucks in rapturously with the artists and the lovers — the singers, the rappers, the dancers, the spray-can painters,  most of them teenagers played by teenagers.” — Los Angeles Times.

The Get Down is a beautiful mess, a flawed show interspersed with moments of remarkable brilliance. It was unprecedentedly expensive and time-consuming for parent company Netflix; the result smacks of half-baked creative ambition run amok. There is a deliberately off-putting messiness to its execution, with cartoonishly blended tonal shifts from cheesy caricature to gritty tragedy. Stock footage from the ’70s is knitted together with elaborate production design. Some scenes are filmed like musical numbers on Glee; some, like action sequences from Bruce Lee’s kung fu films.” — Variety.

“Netflix’s new drama The Get Down, chronicling the rise of hip-hop and the downfall of disco in a smoldering, chaotic New York, is a gigantic hot mess from Baz Luhrmann. It suffers from a 90-minute pilot that will be divisive in its aesthetic choices — think West Side Story, not Spike Lee — but rises again in the next two episodes to give all the crazy a chance at becoming something really good. The saving grace for The Get Down seems to be getting rid of the driving force that helped get it made in the first place — Luhrmann.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

The Get Down is a catalogue of good actors struggling to bring some life to stock characters … After the premiere the tone and style shift significantly. The storytelling takes on more of the quality of a midlevel sitcom, or the ’70s and ’80s films of Michael Schultz (Car Wash, The Last Dragon), and the big moments become increasingly maudlin. For worse and for better, The Get Down probably should have just been a Baz Luhrmann film.” — New York Times.

“Luhrmann and company’s fanciful flourishes here remind me of the portraits by painter Kehinde Wiley, in which the authenticity of the hard streets becomes a Technicolor burst of regal splendour … The writing, though. The dialogue. The structure. The uneven performances. There are some real problems here that a flair for art direction cannot solve … For now, The Get Down is an exercise in glorious imperfection; it’s got the beat, but it’s still grasping for the tone.” — The Washington Post.

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