I made sure to read Daisy Jones and the Six as soon as it was released in 2019, just when it was brand new. My copy of the book, which the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid, autographed for me when I attended one of her readings in London, is one of my most valued belongings since I believe it to be my all-time favorite book and it is signed by the author herself. (Her subsequent book, Malibu Rising, which was published in 2021, came out not long after.) There is no one who does it quite like Reid, no one who, in her words from that reading, catches “women that won’t be told what to do” the way that she does. There is no one who does it quite like Reid.
As a result, I went into Prime Video’s adaptation of that groundbreaking work with a healthy dose of healthy skepticism. Because there are so many adaptations airing on television these days (hello, The Last of Us), it is easy to grow cynical about the lack of original content or protective of the work that is being adapted, regardless of whether it is books, video games, or anything else. I happen to be both, particularly when it comes to Daisy Jones, the story of the fictitious, eponymous rock band from the 1970s who reached great heights before everything came crashing down around them.
Daisy Jones & the Six Trailer
Daisy Jones is the story of how they rose to great heights before everything came crashing down around them. I have a deep and abiding affection for the narrative, despite the fact that I was first apprehensive about reading it due to the unconventional format of the book, which is comprised of a series of interview transcripts rather than traditional writing.
Regrettably, Reid’s work appears to have established expectations that are insurmountable for an adaptation, which has been significantly delayed since its announcement in 2019. In spite of the fact that Sam Claflin and Riley Keough, who play Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones, respectively, are powerhouses, the series starts off slow and bogged down, which morphs into something that is difficult to care about.
This is the case even as The Six becomes successful, going from playing basements in Pittsburgh to stadiums in Los Angeles, dragging Daisy along for the ride. Even (and especially) when we get to the juiciest parts of the story, when Billy and Daisy are so at odds that it’s obvious they’re each other’s mirrors, I find my mind wandering when I should be captivated. Punches are pulled as though this isn’t meant to be a story about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and I find my mind wandering when I should be captivated.
The acting in the show leaves a little bit to be desired, particularly (and unfortunately) from the women, who feel like they’re merely perfunctory pieces of the story, phoning it in just enough to pass the test. The show’s acting leaves a little bit to be desired because the women feel like they’re merely perfunctory pieces of the story. A strong performance from Claflin and the fun of Sebastian Chacon, who seems like he’s having a freaking ball simply because his role scarcely has an influence on the plot, are juxtaposed against this shocking revelation, making it a sharp contrast.
Timothy Olyphant, meanwhile, finds an enjoyable chord as the band’s enigmatic manager, recalling the zaniness and devil-may-care attitude that he brought to the all-too-soon-defunct Santa Clarita Diet. This role is a perfect fit for Olyphant. There is even a surprise cameo by Gavin Drea, and if you are familiar with how I feel about Wedding Season, you will understand why that delights me so much.
Keough’s Daisy is an excellent performer on stage, which is not surprising given that she is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter. Her icy camaraderie with Claflin’s Billy fills out some of the missing pieces of their relationship; however, when she is on her own, she drowns in the size of the shoes she’s trying to fill, as one of the many complicated and emotional women for whom Reid has become known as an actor.
The script as a whole does her no favors by removing a significant portion of the edginess that was present in Reid’s prose. This is most egregious when Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s pilot script takes her most iconic line — “I don’t care if you’re dead or alive” — and uses it. Reid’s work is better than this “I cannot claim to be the muse. I am the person in question. The f***ing end of the narrative “— she transforms it from a declaration of her own self-confidence into an impassioned appeal to a guy, so forgetting what the purpose of the sentence was supposed to be in the first place.
It is a mistake that the show makes multiple times, lifting the wrong parts of the book verbatim, as though it will make up for misunderstanding the venomous bite that Reid injected into Daisy and Billy and so many of her other characters. However, this does not make up for the fact that the show does not understand what Reid was trying to accomplish. Camila Dunne, Billy’s loving wife, and a no-holds-barred badass transformed from the glue that holds the narrative together into a doting waif and the jealous, petty third in a love triangle, which itself is reduced to shock-value basics from its existence in the novel.
This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the adaptation. Even worse is the fact that it’s difficult to tell whether that’s the fault of the writing, which strips her of her character, or simply Camila Morrone’s subpar acting skills, which pale in comparison to every person she shares the screen with, leaving me to wonder whether the show’s emotional core could have been saved had they cast someone else. Camila Morrone is the only person who shares the screen with Camila Morrone. Camila Morrone is the only person who shares the screen with Camila
The songs are without a doubt what carry the program from beginning to end, and they are the only part of the adaptation offered by Prime Video that is an improvement on the original content. The arrangements clearly show the influence of Fleetwood Mac, which perhaps slows them down too much in terms of The Six’s purported inspiration. Despite this, the songs are too catchy for me to care about the Fleetwood Mac influence, especially considering that they are virtually the only thing that is driving the narrative and keeping me interested.
The decision to release singles before the whole album was an astute one, and the fact that I have no plans to ever revisit this concert does not change the fact that I am listening to “Honeycomb” on repeat as I write this review. The needle dips, on the other hand, provide a certain something to a lot of sequences that, without them, just wouldn’t have been the same. (I am aware of your identity, “Gold Dust Lady.”) Daisy Jones is at its finest when it is leaning into the 1970s of it all, the glitz, glam, and questionably designed polyester, rather than attempting to recreate a wheel that Reid previously masterfully constructed on her own.
This is because the 1970s were a time of excess and excess was a hallmark of the 1970s. The band is at its most electrifying when it fully embraces all of that, and it is during such times — which occur primarily in the second half of the performance — that it almost seems as though they have caught up to the pace at which the novel progresses.
Yet, the fact that the movie Daisy is based on a book does not indicate that it follows the same plot as the original. In point of fact, the show is using Reid’s original story as fodder for a warped game of telephone, and the result is a version of the story that is so distorted that it is nearly unrecognizable. It may be serviceable as a decent binge for people who get off on reading about how much Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham hated each other, but at no point does it even come close to the heights reached by the original novel, ones that went beyond the simple shock value of overdoses and infidelity and whatever else the writers of the show could scrounge up.
Sure, it’s serviceable as a decent binge for people who get off on reading about how much Stevie Nick The most important events are adjusted, but only slightly, such that the chain reactions are now less nuclear and more like Mentos in a Coke bottle; they are entertaining for a while, but they fizzle out quickly and have no meaningful influence that will persist.
Items that were originally major revelations in the book are either eliminated or reduced to plot aspects that are incomprehensible when removed from the novel’s initial context; hence, Daisy Jones loses its fangs almost as fast as new information is introduced. The concept that the truth is a hazy place, or that it is “unclaimed, somewhere in the midst” of two people’s interpretations of an event, is one of the many things that is lost in the process of adapting a written work for the screen.
Daisy Jones loses much of its push and pulls when it directly portrays a scene, rather than someone’s verbal remembrance of it. This is because the inner voice is a tough (and some would say impossible) thing to represent on screen. Some people would even claim it’s impossible. This gray region, that jumbled messiness that makes it hard to distinguish reality, is lost, and as a result, the narrative slows down significantly, spreading itself out across ten episodes when it might have easily been eight or fewer episodes.
It is quite evident that Daisy Jones was, if nothing else, a gallant attempt by all those involved, or at least the actors, who appear to have had a great time despite the screaming catfights that were a part of the production. There are flashes of what might have been, like diving into a pool filled with the oily rainbows that result from a spill or pulling aside a garish curtain to reveal another reality set in the 1970s.
There are also glimpses of what might have been. Yet, it is too little, too late, and in the battle of the bands between the version of The Six that appears on the page and the one that appears on screen, the victor is more than evident. (It’s a horrible shame that we never had the opportunity to talk to Mick Riva.)