Netflix’s Westside Is an Instagram Ad Made Flesh

The new Netflix actuality present Westside is an uneven, jumbled, sometimes alluring Frankenstein of a present, a mishmash of The Hills-style actuality TV drama, a Behind the Music-style making-of documentary, and a basic narrative musical. That mixture ceaselessly turns into one thing incoherent, a skidding, lurching story that goals for each grit and gloss and finally ends up trying like a simulacrum of each. Yet Westside is curiously fascinating as a largely failed experiment that, very briefly, coalesces into one thing that abruptly actually works.

The largest subject with Westside is that its constituent items are essentially at odds with each other. As a actuality present, the premise of the sequence is that it gives an informal, unvarnished take a look at what occurs within the lives of 9 wannabe musicians in L.A. They are a uniformly stunning bunch of individuals with names like Arika G. and Pia (Toscano) and Taz (Zavala), they usually’ve been introduced collectively by a producer, Sean Patrick Murray, who desires them to work collectively on staging a stay present that may showcase their skills. Sean is ideally positioned for peak actuality drama: He’s ostensibly the boss and the decision-maker, however he’s additionally the group’s peer, somebody who might be performing as a musician on this stay present, too. His authority is essential to serving to everybody work collectively. It’s additionally tenuous and ill-defined.

The gang has precisely the sort of issues, backstories, and interpersonal spats you’d count on in a actuality present about musicians that appears like an Instagram filter made flesh. After the gang plans to carry out at an informal open mic evening, Austin (Kolbe) exhibits up together with his entire three-piece band. James (Byous) is livid, feeling like he’s been proven up and outgunned, and threatens to drag out of the entire thing. Later, James accuses Austin of breaking the foundations throughout a monologue workshop. All of it's garden-variety petty insecurity, making good on the truth TV style’s promise to show all molehills into mountains.

But then, minimize in and amongst the acquainted rhythms of squabbling and tearful private accounts of previous tragedies, Westside throws in what are primarily music movies, extremely produced track sequences with their very own distinct designs and settings. One second we’re watching Arika speak along with her agent about not desirous to take teeny-bopper roles in CW exhibits (Arika, rethink!), and the following, we’re catapulted right into a music video wherein Arika sings about being a good looking lady.

From a distance, this mixture looks like it ought to work as any musical would: We see battle, we see character development, after which we break for a track that extends these moments of revelation. In a typical scripted musical construction, the track pushes the story ahead or provides us perception into plot; it’s a chunk of the narrative simply as a lot because the dialogue breaks. But Westside is simply scripted sufficient to be clearly produced (à la The Hills or Kardashians), whereas additionally not being scripted sufficient to construct the songs into its story. Instead of being illuminating or considerate items of this sequence, the songs find yourself trying like essentially the most purely promotional items of a present already meant to advertise its stars’ careers. The songs flip Westside into one thing like an elaborate advert for itself. The advert’s not particularly interesting, both: The first large group musical quantity, “We Are the Ones,” appears like a track written by Big Data, a chunk of music geared toward an ideal algorithmic common.

It’s a disgrace that Westside can’t work out how knit its songs along with its narrative in any significant means, as a result of it'd present the extra consideration and character growth a lot of the solid so desperately wants. Much of the present’s private drama comes from James, whose dramatic descent into habit is given the overwhelming edit as “most fascinating factor occurring on this sequence,” full with repeated photographs of him pouring beer into his throat that mix voyeurism with twisted hagiography. Other than James, although, most narratives skip by way of the highlights and lowlights of the solid members’ lives so quickly and with such split-second, scene-shifting cuts that it’s arduous to comply with whose ache is whose. Sean’s getting married! Palm bushes, dance flooring, James staggering, Sean’s in love, extra palm bushes, lens flare, Taz’s mother frying meals, Pia FaceTiming her husband, again to Sean’s wedding ceremony, 20 seconds of a track by Lexi (Alexandra Kay), after which again to James staggering — Westside guarantees that these 9 individuals are worthy of our consideration, but it surely doesn’t belief its viewers to have the eye span to observe any one in all them for greater than 90 seconds at a time, until they’re singing a track that has nothing to do with the “story.”

One results of Westside’s frenetic enhancing is that its episodes have little to no construction, and solely the barest sense of an arc undergirding the entire season. At some level late within the first episode, with little or no fanfare or formality, Sean introduces the concept of a “stay present” that would be the capstone of this story. But the define of that present is obscure, the challenges to staging it are by no means made clear, and the group’s duties from one episode to the following arrive within the amorphous type of mumbled directions like “let’s simply attempt to get it collectively” and “simply inform your fact.” There’s nearly no means of figuring out when something is going down relative to the rest, or how a lot time is passing, or what is going to occur within the rapid future. If it borrows from something, Westside most intently resembles the cohort of Netflix dramas wherein tales slosh from one episode to the following with no differentiating boundaries. After watching the primary two of the 4 episodes offered for evaluation, I used to be prepared to jot down the showcase solely.

But then, in episode three, Westside does one thing totally different. The 9 musicians collect collectively in a songwriting workshop, with the intention of leaving that day with no less than one brand-new, collectively written track. It begins as most of Westside’s workouts do, with an instantaneous name for them to mine all of their deepest, most upsetting experiences as musical fodder — which, honest sufficient. Rather than resuming its normal jittery tempo by way of 9 erratically considerate tales, although, Westside really stays with this workshop expertise. It follows the group by way of the choice to go along with a particular chord development, the method of every individual listening to these chords and taking a stab at particular person verses, after which ends with an nearly transcendent sequence the place all of them half-improv the track collectively, their faces suffused with the sensation of giddy glory that generally occurs when a bunch of individuals making music collectively briefly suggestions over into nirvana.

Even in that sequence, although, Westside remains to be its drama-mining self. The chord development comes from Austin, who's none too humble about his skills as essentially the most easy songwriter of the bunch. The sequence ends with Taz burning out when it’s her flip to take the lyrical reins; she leaves in a moody and dramatic cloud, chased by digicam folks far sufficient away to make her exit appear convincingly unplanned. In this quick bit of 1 episode, Westside proves that there’s one thing about its patchwork DNA that may really cohere into one thing compulsively watchable.

Without having seen the entire season, there’s no means of figuring out whether or not this little bit of the sequence will win out, or whether or not it’s a brief, beautiful blip in an in any other case irritating expertise. But Westside will get credit score for attempting a brand new factor, for its stab at being greater than a cookie-cutter duplicate of American Idol or MTV’s Real World. I nonetheless don’t know if the hassle was price it, however I’m not mad at it for having made the try.

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