‘The Get Down’ Is ‘West Side Story’ With Rappers and Disco Queens

There are, perhaps, less likely pairings than Baz Luhrmann and the story of hip-hop’s beginnings in the South Bronx in the 1970s. Britain and the European Union. Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. Red wine and fish.

“The Get Down,” Mr. Luhrmann’s 12-episode series for Netflix (six episodes will be available on Friday), is being promoted as “a comprehensive look at the art form’s true origins” and an authentic evocation of late-’70s New York, that caldron of burning buildings, bankruptcy, cocaine and revolutionary forms of popular music.

‘The Get Down’ Is ‘West Side Story’ With Rappers and Disco Queens

But anyone looking for the slightest touch of reality or historical resonance in “The Get Down” hasn’t watched enough Baz Luhrmann. Few filmmakers are as closed off from the day-to-day world as Mr. Luhrmann, whose ideas and choices all seem to come from the world of old movies — particularly old musicals, and most particularly“West Side Story.” In “The Get Down,” he takes that film’s strivers, spitfires and gang bangers, moves them a few miles north and repurposes them as rappers, drug dealers and disco queens.

In the 90-minute premiere episode, which Mr. Luhrmann directed (and, with Seth Zvi Rosenfeld and the playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, wrote), the result is relatively painless, even entertaining. The colors are bright and glossy, the camerawork fluid, the editing smooth, the cast endearing. The soundtrack is propulsive but unsurprising, familiar hits by the Spinners; Donna Summer; Earth, Wind & Fire; and the Trammps.

Read More