‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ review: A rock soap opera

Adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“The Disaster Artist”) from the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, “Daisy Jones & the Six” is a soap opera wrapped inside a period musical. Set largely in the 1970s, the novel is rendered as an oral history, the story of the slow, then rapid rise and sudden fall of a rock band. The 10-episode series, which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video, repeats it with a documentary framing — that is, the action is interspersed with scenes in which the characters answer an interviewer 20 years in the future (the late ’90s, save the production team the trouble of aging the characters half a century).

If it gets an actual soundtrack, the book loses something in translation, as the viewpoints of multiple narrators are largely conflated into a single narrative. Reid’s approach also means there isn’t a lot of dialogue on the page, and so the adaptation is very much a matter of extrapolation and editing, with changes and additions to make it more conventionally dramatic – more like a TV series. And as a TV series, it’s perfect, in a paradoxically low-powered, high-tension way, although it does run a bit long and requires some willful suspension of disbelief.

Riley Keough stars as Daisy, a poor rich girl from the Hollywood Hills who we first meet knocking around the Sunset Strip as a teenager in the late 1960s, getting into trouble more by implication than meets the eye. Later, she begins to carve out her deepest thoughts in lyrics and works her lyrics into songs. (It felt “even better than the drugs,” the future Daisy recalled.)

Meanwhile, in a suburb of Pittsburgh, blue-collar worker Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) is forced to join his kid brother Graham’s (Will Harrison) garage. they play dances and parties and local bars until a chance meeting with a Los Angeles-based tour manager (a fun and entertaining complainer Timothy Olyphant as Rod) gives them the idea to move to California, along with Billy’s girlfriend Camila ( Camila Morrone).

A famous record producer, Teddy Price (Tom Wright), independently impressed by Daisy and Billy’s band, puts them together, much against Billy’s will. But a hit single makes her joining the Six inevitable, and things progress, regress, and spiral out of control from there.

The band that seems to have inspired Reid is Fleetwood Mac, which, with its changing intramural love affairs, various drug problems and control issues – the soapiest of rock’s many operas – was a romance novel/miniseries that wait for it to happen.

There’s no attempt here to replicate that band’s subtler, softer sound – Six’s music tends towards the bombastic – or its long and complicated history, except perhaps that it’s the story of a blues-based band made famous after adding a Californian folk to the mix.

There’s no one-to-one correspondence between the members, even if Keough, swirling in see-through stage gear, channels a bit of Stevie Nicks, and Claflin is pretty much the group’s controlling Lindsey Buckingham and Suki Waterhouse. Karen, like Christine McVie, is an English keyboard player. However, I’d be very surprised if Keough and Claflin hadn’t studied live footage of Stevie and Lindsey locking eyes on “Silver Springs.”

The series expands the role of Daisy’s friend Simone (Nabiyah Be), described as a “disco pioneer”, who in the book serves mainly as a witness to Daisy’s misadventures. Here she gets her own thread, including a romance, while producer Teddy is given some extra motivation – he needs a hit after many failures. (Their characters also give the series some ethnic diversity.)

Camila, who is an important voice in the book but doesn’t have much to do other than hold her marriage and family together, becomes a photographer here. And a short passage in the novel set in Thailand becomes big in Greece.

Having Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” serve as the theme song for the series underscores the fact that this is primarily Daisy and Camila’s story, focusing on women in music and the world, and what they expected of them and of them. . (“I’m not the muse,” insists Daisy, whose beauty makes men want to possess her. “I’m the one.”) As outsider heroines, harassed and exploited even as they are adored, the female characters and The actresses, make stronger impressions than the men — especially Keough and Monroe, but also Waterhouse and Be in their smaller parts.

Daisy (Riley Keough) cuts the Troubadour line in Prime Video’s “Daisy Jones & the Six.”

(Lacey Terrell/Prime Video)

While the music is obviously a hook and provides a backdrop where sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll can roam free, the show is nevertheless full of tropes well-worn over a century of show biz dramas—the tormented creator, the irreconcilable vision, the addiction-cursed career, sexual attraction between creative partners, art vs. commerce, art vs. life.

One reason these tropes exist, of course, is that there’s some truth to them: Many episodes of “Behind the Music” have taught us that pop bands experience moments of dysfunction, to put it mildly. And as someone who’s had the opportunity to travel in a band, in trucks and buses, I can tell you that even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves when they’re locked in tight quarters for weeks and the guitarist refuses to turn it down or move its amplifier even a foot out of your way.

Most of the character types and incidents in “Daisy Jones,” outrageous or banal, had their counterparts (and worse) in the real rock world, which doesn’t make the series itself feel particularly real.

However, in an attempt to blur the line between fantasy and reality, two songs from the band’s album, “Aurora,” have been pre-released on music streaming platforms.

This isn’t a new game — “The Monkees” was created in part as a machine to sell records that would in turn promote the TV show. But the Monkees have also become a true contemporary hits band, and one that has continued to record new music as recently as 2018, while Daisy Jones & the Six is ​​a generic retro pastiche, its music cobbled together by strains of decade-old folk rock ’70, assisted by Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford and Jackson Browne.

The songs are catchy if you listen enough times, but it takes a bit of imagination to accept Six as “one of the greatest bands in the world” or to invest in what we’re coming to think of as the strong chemistry between Billy. who is a bit of a pill and Daisy, who is generally sunny despite her lack of impulse control and the occasional drug montage.

Whether you buy her as a rock goddess or not, Keough makes a strong impression as a quirky free spirit. (Claflin, if only because his character spends so much of the series angry or miserable, is less good company.)

There’s a tendency to make the music seem more critical than fun – it’s a drama, so I guess the dramatic stuff takes precedence – but there are moments of genuine spirit, perhaps most notably a group sing-along of Ronnie Lane’s “Ooh La La” that gives to Waterhouse Karen is more dedicated than her band mates.

Surprisingly, when it comes to pop music, comedy tends to tell the story better than drama. what plays as a cliché when taken straight work like the satire that so easily invites the environment.

One episode of “Girls5eva” will tell you more about the music business than 10 of “Daisy Jones” and “We Are Lady Parts” make a better case for why someone might want to be in a band. “That Thing You Do” shares more than a few plot points with “Daisy Jones,” with the advantage that it doesn’t have to oversell the Wonders’ importance. And “Spinal Tap” remains gospel among musicians — “puppeteer” is shorthand that every player who plays understands.

“Daisy Jones & the Six” is really best thought of as a somewhat poignant romance only incidental to the music, a theatrical beach read about big egos in hate and love and ultimately sobriety, family and, above all, everything, faith.

“Daisy Jones & the Six”

Where: Prime Video

When: Whenever

Assessment: 16+ (may be unsuitable for children under 16 with hints of substance abuse, alcohol use, smoking, violence, sex and foul language)

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