Directed by: James Ponsoldt, Nzingha Stewart, Will Graham
Distributed by: Prime Video
Written by Maria Athayde
Based on the novel of the same name written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, “Daisy Jones & The Six” chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional rock band in the 1970s. Since the series was first announced, I have been curious about this on-screen adaptation because the novel reads more like an interview transcript than a traditional narrative. Like the novel, the series is presented in a quasi-documentary style as a series of interviews with the band members punctuated with flashback scenes and live performances. Before going in, I knew that the show’s visual identity would make or break the experience for me. While I cannot say that I was completely sold on how they chose to balance the interviews, flashbacks, and the band’s live performances, there were still things I could appreciate, especially from an acting standpoint.
Riley Keough who plays the titular Daisy Jones feels like she was made for this role, able to strike the right balance between being enigmatic, vulnerable, and ferocious as a singer-songwriter who was emotionally neglected as a child and wanted to make it big in the music industry. Sam Claflin as Billy Dunner, the band’s lead vocalist, gives his best performance to date, especially when acting against Riley Keough and Camila Morrone who plays his wife, Camila Dunne. The chemistry between the players of this core trio and Morrone’s performance in particular surpasses the source material in the best possible ways by giving her a sense of agency and assertiveness that I found missing in the novel.
The supporting cast is rounded out with performances by band members Will Harrison as lead guitarist Graham Dunne, Josh Whitehouse as bassist Eddie Roundtree, Sebastian Chacon as drummer Warren Rojas, and Suki Waterhouse as keyboardist Karen Sirko. In general, the chemistry between the members felt authentic and was one of the highlights of the series which is why I was so disappointed that we spent what I felt was so little time with them as a band (but more on that later). The series also stars Tom Wright as band manager Teddy Price, Timothy Olyphant as tour manager Rod Reyes, and Nabiyah Be as disco star and Daisy’s best friend, Simone Jackson.
Dissapointly from a narrative perspective I was not completely sold on the series. It takes a while for it to get going especially in the earlier episodes when flashbacks occur to flesh out the backstory of our characters. These pacing issues really hindered the series because it had pockets of greatness when it relied on the actors working as actual band members whether they were on stage or in studio sessions. Often times it felt the documentary-style structure and flashbacks, in particular, got in the way of what really mattered which was the band and the music. Minor details in the framing, continuity, and characterization during the interview portions particularly stuck out. For example, there were shots where characters had lavalier lapel mics and other interview shots where they did not. The “previously on” clip montage at the beginning of the episodes also detracted from the immersive experience I sought from this unique narrative device. More importantly, the actors also did not look older during the recorded interview portions, and the series would have benefited from casting older actors to play them during the present day which really took away from the vérité experience I was looking for.
Unfortunately, the series gets in its own way trying to balance its unique storytelling style and emulating rock legends. I am really torn about this show, but I would cautiously recommend it if you are a fan of Jenkins Reid’s work.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” Trailer
You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on Letterboxd, Serializd, Twitter, and view more of what she’s up to here.