Updated: August 21, 2021 9:19:39 am
Nine Perfect Strangers cast: Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Asher Kiddie, Samara Weaving, Grace Van Patten, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale
Nine Perfect Strangers director: Jonathan Levine
Nine Perfect Strangers rating: 3 stars
A svelte Russian Rapunzel, a luxury retreat, nine Americans looking for “transformation”, and a lot of Oriental mysticism. It starts with a namaste and is, presumably, headed for Nirvana — by way of meditation, sitting cross-legged on the ground for sessions, acupuncture and lying down in dirt to connect with “Mother Earth”.
The sweat and tears shed by the nine, looking for a 2.0 version of themselves that is pared both mentally and physically, sure couldn’t have asked for a more luxurious setting in this David E. Kelley creation. Tranquilum is the kind of retreat where being “natural” costs serious money. A glass building with swathes of green expanse around it, pools and hot springs, river, brown and yellow tones, wood flooring, bowls showcasing Japanese art of repair, plates resembling sliced tree logs, food that looks almost too lovely to eat, plus is specific to each one’s metabolic requirements, etc etc. And, above all, looms the tall, lean mysterious Masha (Nicole Kidman), the queen of this kingdom, in her blonde tresses, white overalls, and a very curious threesome with her two aides.
Three episodes down, Amazon Prime Video’s Nine Perfect Strangers is building up to be a mystery that may have spent too much time on the setting than the people who inhabit it — not to mention its cringing co-opting of Indian particulars with, pointedly, no Indian to mar the picture. The nine include a family grieving a death, a football star in the twilight of his fame, a writer fearing oblivion, an Englishman with a just-ended relationship, a particularly rich and young couple having issues, and a perfectly good mother looking to lose some weight and gain some self-esteem.
They all have traumas, which is why Masha has selectively curated and accepted them as guests. They presumably have no issues that her routine includes random drawing of blood from her guests and, yet, they carp at the inaner stuff.
The two who seem the most interesting at this point are Jessica (Weaving) and Heather (Keddie) — both with the least baggage of being a character. They are what they are, and Jessica especially makes you see beyond the stereotype of the blonde cheerleader missing her Instagram (among, other things, Tranquilum requires its guests to surrender their phones and not post about it later on social media).
The biggest injustice is to McCarthy as the writer of romantic bestsellers Frances Welty. The Hulu series, based on a bestseller, is glad to have the actress around but also almost not. While she still sizzles, McCarthy is swathed, always, in these gowns, flowing robes and top-to-bottom lycras that tie down the vivacious actress.
But, it’s Kidman and her Masha — described once by Frances as this “amazing, mysterious, Eastern bloc unicorn” — who is the most disappointing. We have seen Kidman, also the executive producer, in this role now once too often.
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