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‘Mozart in the Jungle’ Season 3 Review: Why It’s Easy to Like, But Hard to Love

While the life of a classical musician is full of shifts and upheavals, Amazon's Golden Globe-winning series remains relatively constant (beyond one big experiment).

Gael Garcia Bernal in "Mozart in the Jungle."

Gael Garcia Bernal in “Mozart in the Jungle.”

Amazon Studios

Each season of “Mozart in the Jungle” begins with something new — specifically, the opening sequence, which has gotten a regular refresh every year. But while each is beautiful in its own way, the theme song never changes. And that feels entirely correct for the Golden Globe-winning series, which in its third season remains unafraid of trying new things, but in the end rarely changes.

READ MORE: ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ Season 3 Trailer: Gael García Bernal and Lola Kirke Return To The Orchestra

Tracking a group of professional musicians as they strive to create art and make a living, “Mozart” has always been an extraordinarily pleasant show, with intricate plotting taking a very deliberate back seat to quirky vignettes and extended sequences entirely dedicated to performance and creation.

Season 3 begins with our best-known members of the New York Symphony Orchestra somewhat scattered to the winds, due to contract negotiations and the need to find work elsewhere. Elsewhere in this case includes Venice, Italy, where Hailey (Lola Kirke) finds herself assisting Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) with a new ambitious piece featuring a legendary opera singer (Monica Bellucci, who really should be in more things). Meanwhile, Gloria (Bernadette Peters) tries to hold the business of the Symphony together, as Thomas (Malcolm McDowell) explores new opportunities and Cynthia (Saffron Burrows) continues to advocate for the now out-of-work players.

"Mozart in the Jungle"

Just because the symphony is shut down doesn’t mean “Mozart” lacks in the beautiful music that’s always been a massive part of the series. (As always, the focus is on classical, but unafraid of modern twists and new genres, including a notable trip down EDM lane.)

The beauty goes beyond the auditory: The early episodes were shot on location in Venice, and it’s truly stunning to see what the production was able to stage in the piazzas and canals of that extraordinary city. And unexpectedly, the series tops that achievement with its breakout installment: Episode 7, a faux documentary written and directed by Roman Coppola, was shot on 16mm color film in Rikers Island penitentiary, and is a weird, but stunning, bit of filmmaking that functions as a stand-alone piece, but also serves as an essential part of the narrative.

There’s a lot that makes “Mozart” special, to be honest, including the stable of actors who make up its ensemble. In particular, Malcolm McDowell remains an absolute delight, defying decades worth of iconically villainous roles to play a man still capable and open to discovering new experiences in his 70s. Bernadette Peters has more class than an entire symphony audience, and there are many guest stars from the over-40 set who prove extraordinary.

Monica Bellucci in "Mozart in the Jungle"

“Mozart” is a show about people who may drive each other crazy, but all genuinely love the same thing, which makes it decidedly easy to like. That said, for some reason it always takes real nudging to engage with it, in part because that same pleasant energy doesn’t include the same sort of urgent drive that leads to addictive viewing.

In addition, the writing in general isn’t immune to cliches and expected outcomes (I am officially obligated to deduct a few points for a “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?” scene, as well as the schoolyard taunt “Yo-Yo Ma? Yo mama!”). And sometimes, there are odd vignettes and sidebars that feel included for the sake of random oddness. It’s a show we should all be genuinely grateful is 30 minutes an episode because, after three seasons, I feel confident saying that if it were an hour long, that’d kill it.

Really, there’s much to the alchemy of what makes “Mozart” work that has a sense of fragility to it. Of all the visual metaphors to float up unexpectedly in Season 3, the most prominent one is that of bubbles. Beautiful, light, and delicate, even in their growing complexity, we watch them float across the screen. Watching the show brings with it the same emotions: knowing that there’s something beautiful happening, something that’s always on the verge of falling apart. And perhaps that’s what holds us back a bit from truly engaging: We don’t want to get our hearts broken.

Grade: B

“Mozart in the Jungle” Season 3 is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

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Comments

Anna Segreto

Anna

John Kay

The show needs to somehow make itself more inclusive. I had seen it a million times on Amazon and my reaction was basically an I wish they’d quit advertising that goofy show- I had no idea what he show was about, I just had a ton of bias because I am 180 degrees outside of the show’s demographic. Then one day during the holiday I had a cold and was so bored I ended up watching the first episode and became hooked immediately. It is so good and might even be better for those of us that have zero interest or knowledge of that world. Such a great show and I know that if they can figure out via marketing how to get knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me to watch the show it could become important- As in giving a whole new crowd an appreciation for classical music and opera. PS my wife is ecstatic in that this show did something in 1 weekend she hasn’t been able to do in 17 yrs- give me a bit of culture and a desire to go to the symphony here in SF. Thanks to Hai Lai and Rodrigo

Mick Russom

I watch the show for malcolm mcdowell , a little Gael Garcia Bernal (in small doses), a little Bernadette Peters. The rest of the characters I dont really like much anymore. The show was almost convincing as a mock up of what being a real life professional musician but then broke down into cartoonish da-da lately. I watch it but wish they did more with the talent they have. Lizzie/hanna dunne has become just annoying. There are a lot of distracting an annoying sequences. If the whole show was malcom bumbling about it would be fine as malcom can turn rubbish into gold. There is a lot of cliche and flat/1-dimensional characters they like to visit and re-visit in the show, like that goofy hippy dork Dee Dee/john miller – he at one point was a pastor in vestments in the church lock in. This just was trash. Dont these people ever practice? And when did Hailey start playing piano. In the end by having actors rather than real musicians this really is a contrived soap and not something that could be a biopic of musicians with some fantasy peppered in. This is like paint being thrown on a canvas – a motley gallimaufry.

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