Nine Perfect Strangers: Hulu’s Nicole Kidman Vehicle Is Too Good a Thing

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Nicole Kidman as Masha in Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers miniseries.

Hulu

HuluThe original miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers has all the right ingredients. The show is an adaptation of not only the best-selling novel but the best-selling Liane Moriarty novel. It Automatically Involves Comparisons to HBO’s Crowd-pleasing Moriarty Adaptation big little lie.

And its source material isn’t the only DNA the show shares with other twisty, prestige-adjacent, thriller-adjacent, limited-run series. Its list of executive producers like Big Little Lies includes David E. Kelly and Nicole Kidman, both of whom also adapted last winter’s soapy HBO miniseries. undo.

Aesthetically, Nine Perfect Strangers, now streaming on Hulu, also takes a page from the Kelly cinematic universe. The show’s opening credits are anchored on a psychedelic nature montage with a catchy, minor-key pop cover that looks like it could have been sung by Kidman. The setting is a tony health and wellness resort populated by wealthy, beautiful people with one to two painful backstories.

And these rich, beautiful characters are played by a hodgepodge of previously-seen actors alike, from BLL/The Undoing alum Kidman to Little Fire Everywhere alum Tiffany Boone and Gilmore Girls alum Melissa McCarthy. The only ingredient missing from the winning drama miniseries recipe is Reese Witherspoon, whose production company has carved a niche for book-to-television adaptations (Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, the upcoming Daisy Jones and the Six).

But for fans of Moriarty or any of the show’s aforementioned antecedents, the combination of all the right material isn’t a repast. The resulting mix is ​​essentially a “premium streaming content” mad lib with shaggy pacing that mostly stokes the initial intrigue in confusion. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

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Nine Perfect Strangers premieres on Hulu on August 18.

Hulu

This time, Kidman plays the manic pixie nightmare Masha, the founder of the boutique health resort Tranquillum House, who’s got a sad streak and a villainous Russian accent that looks like it was workshopped during the Cold War. Tranquillum sounds closer to tranquilizers than calmness, and that’s the point. In fiction, the plot is the crucible through which the characters endure hardship and struggle, emerging from the other side changing. The 10-Day Retreat of Tranquillum is that the crucible was made literal, the victims were comforted and comforted.

Each character’s individual demon must be excreted during the migration, through supposed therapeutic protocols designed by Masha. The treatment plan operates under the “burn says it’s working” mentality, which suffers with treatment. I’m not sure if it’s a critique of wellness culture and the asymptotic finish line of self-improvement, a critique of poor rich people who pay money to quell their miseries, or criticism of the plot mechanics themselves.

Or maybe it’s not a critique, but a character study. Masha awkwardly “curated” the attendees at her resort, much like Agatha Christie’s mysterious host and then there was no one there. And that’s quite a team gathered. I spent the entirety of the first episode waiting for each of the nine strangers to die Christie-style, but no dice.

Read more: Here’s Everything Coming to Hulu in September

There’s a mystery at the center of the plot, but like Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers doesn’t really tell you what it is. And unlike Big Little Lies, whose subtle characters felt fresh and real, I couldn’t care more about solving it. I was able to guess that Some The slow panning as a whole was based on the liberal use of established shots and the occasional knowledge exchange of constant eye contact between Masha’s henchmen. But even after several episodes, the central question driving the series is simply “Did trauma drive these people to a self-improvement resort?” (And will they self-improve by the end of their stay?) There’s also the question of why everyone is acting out. very strange, but by the time it is addressed, I have already accepted awkwardness as the price of entry into the world of the show.

And there’s something wrong with Masha – a near-death experience; intrusive memories of a little girl on a bike; Mysterious, threatening text messages… But his character is so devilishly goofy, I’m hesitant to spend much energy worrying about it. It’s hard to follow bread crumbs of intrigue when it’s not clear that you’re even asking the right questions, which could potentially be a dead-end.

Tonight, Nine Perfect Strangers are everywhere, a melting pot of comedy, romance, magical realism, horror and mystery. Throughout their stay in Tranquillum, nine strangers pass through the woods like Hermia and Lysander. They cry and scream like patients under the care of Nurse Ratched. They indulge in desperate credentials like the characters in an NXIVM cult documentary. They fight and attack each other, they fall in love, they hallucinate, they share deep, dark secrets, they compete in potato sack races.

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See? They actually have a race for the potato sack at Tranquillum House.

Hulu

The characters’ reasons for attending the resort range from the tragic to the mundane. The couple is grappling with the recent death of their son. So is this couple battling the pressure of social media? McCarthy plays the novelist Frances, who is closest to the audience’s analogue. His personal demon is the strangest, involving the catfishing scam. Each character’s psychological flaw is a speech extending from the self-improvement wheel hub, and each speech takes the show in a different direction. Francis splits the difference with a veneer of satire that is both funny and sad. (“I’m not meditating, just staring despairingly into the empty space,” she says.)

The photography and set design are beautiful, and there are several performances going on – the injured ex-athlete of Bobby Cannavale and the grieving father of Michael Shannon is particularly poignant. But the shapelessness of the story and the vagueness of its secrets give the sense that this mini-series was constructed by some kind of algorithm. The cast’s overwhelming collection of grief, betrayal, commitment fear, loneliness and professional failure creates a screenwriting challenge that Kelly and the team cannot fully meet. Perhaps nine perfect strangers is too much to know in a limited amount of time.

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