The frenetic new Netflix streaming choice this summer is Baz Luhrman's The Get Down, a tale of the rise of hip-hop in the late seventies amongst disco, soul, and punk amidst the streets of the Bronx. The story uses Luhrmann's penchant for a wild romance and musicals to bring alive the struggle and survival of adolescents while also capturing development, blackouts, and criminal behavior. The narrative is excellent, bouncing around from character to character from crumbling buildings to disco floors, hardly pausing to take a breath. I was hooked from the first episode as the introduced character and a compelling plot mixed in with the music and fast cuts, and this show may very well be one of my favorite shows of the year and will easily place in my top ten.
The main character is Ezekiel 'Books' Figuero (Justice Smith) who is hopelessly in love with his neighbor Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola). Ezekiel is introduced as an older man rapping on a stage in a packed auditorium using the voice of Nas to rap reminiscently on his past. Mylene is gifted with a beautiful singing voice and has a great desire to escape the Bronx to a better life with her ability. Around them, the world is vivid as they sing and run through their hectic life. These young actors show such amazing potential and I feel so positive for their futures.
An actor that I've greatly enjoyed in the film Dope, Shameik Moore shines as Shaolin Fantastic, an up-and-coming DJ and trainee to Grandmaster Flash (Mamoudou Athie). Shaolin hopes to charm the gathering at the Get Down, an underground dance party, and has found his wordsmith in Ezekiel who can add the words to his sound. The story encounters historical moments like the campaign of Ed Koch to be Mayor of New York and the blackout of '77 in the city. The music is original but harkens back to the era as a new sound was born.
There are plenty of other great cast members in the mix. Skylan Brooks, Tremaine Brown Jr., and Jaden Smith play Ezekiel's friends who live to see the latest graffiti and listen to these changing sounds. Mylene also has a group of friends including Stefanée Martin and Shyrley Rodriguez. The show is bursting with young talent.
The story follows the adolescents but has great support from the adults including Jimmy Smits as Francisco 'Papa Fuerte' Cruz, Mylene's uncle and an ambitious developer who hopes to lift his family and the community, and Giancarlo Esposito as Mylene's controlling religious father Pastor Ramon Cruz. Kevin Corrigan shows up as the drug addict, music producer Jackie Moreno who sees something special in Mylene's voice. The show is also not without a great villain in Cadillac (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who encapsulates the crime and disco mix.
The plot is addictive and with only six episodes in the first part, it is an easy binge. I don't think there has been a fun that is as much fun and captivating as this Netflix spectacular and though some parts slow down, it quickly picks back up and can't help but be charming and full of relentless tension. This is the kind of show that at the end of the first part, one has to catch their breath from the excitement and whirlwind love story.