Nine Perfect Strangers
Series – USA 2021, 8 episodes lasting about 55 ‘. Directed by Jonathan Levine, from the novel by Liane Moriarty. With Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Bobby Cannavale. The complete series from 23 September, on Amazon Prime.
Nine characters, who do not know each other except the three members of a family unit, converge in the luxurious wellness-resort Tranquility for ten days of regeneration. Maîtresse of the house the Russian Masha (Nicole Kidman) who, quickly assuming the psychological control – but also a little physical … – of this heterogeneous and at times recalcitrant team, pushes its members towards breaking points which, in accordance with his method, would be aimed at freeing them of their inner blocks. If it doesn’t get out of hand.
Everything in this series is all about luxury, it’s a perfect sample of prestige television: that announcement with great pomp, important cast, packaging
without economies… In short great emphasis on form, which the content does not always manage to keep up with. A predictable but sometimes forced evolution of that quality television which marked the turning point of the television serial product – between the 90s and the beginning of the new millennium – from the poor and simpleton sister of cinema to a laboratory of new languages and authorial performances: Tween Peaks, The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives… Convinced by the quality seal (but also by the economically interesting engagements and by the signs of the theatrical crisis) the stars of the big screen stopped keeping their distance and first began to join, then to invest, focusing more and more on sequins. Like here, where “prestige“Are also the opening credits: from the evident Bondian reminiscences of the images, to the suggestive”Strange Effect”In the velvety voice of Raven Violet.
That Kidman touch
At the heart of the operation Nicole Kidman, in the role of protagonist as well as – as is now used by luxury protagonists – executive producer. Excited by the resistible success of the irritant Big Little Lies, Kidman did not miss the rights of the next novel by the same author, still entrusting it to the clever hand of David E. Kelley – creator among other things of the lucky (and this time good) The Undoing.
Of course, the key character is tailored on her: the look (“a magnificent mystical unicorn from the Eastern Bloc“, Defines her as a guest of the house); the flute voice, to which in the original English she gives an exotic Russian cadence; the magnetic gazes, the striking phrases… everything contributes to the glamor of the operation.
The personage of Masha is deliberately ambiguous. He sends signals – to his guests but also, behind the scenes, to his collaborators and directly to us – that do not allow us to understand something fundamental for the viewer: whether it is good or bad. Nor what does he have in mind; and this is the magnet to hold attention tightly.
As well as elusive are the nine guests, as well as the lady’s assistants: of each we sense some karst river under the skin, some unspoken. And we don’t know if the pseudo-empathy that goes on is created with And between they are well placed.
So is it a good series?
Told as I told you, it sounds like an exciting psychological thriller that plays with safe ingredients: the ones I told you, and also the atmosphere from Ten little Indians; and also the anxious feeling that something big is about to happen at any moment.
Nevertheless something does not rise, I waited for the end (one episode a week) so as not to be hasty in the judgment: some characters a bit plastic, an excessive emphasis in gestures and speeches, the stasis of the central episodes. Kidman herself too embellished, dangerously balanced on the edge of advancing age (although some might say that it is the character who demands it, and she is good at rendering it).
The basic themes remain good, which the script raises: in our society those who have no real problems create them themselves; the expectation of hidden miraculousness in many; welcome change as the key to not succumbing to the crisis and perhaps even to rediscover and relaunch oneself.