A bunch of tousled (largely) wealthy folks journey to a luxe resort, yell on the workers, and wreak havoc in one another’s lives. Whereas that was basically the premise of the recently concluded The White Lotus, it’s additionally, roughly, the set-up of Hulu’s 9 Good Strangers (August 18), a darkish satire about folks coming undone—or perhaps rebuilding themselves—at a wellness retreat.
The present’s second-fiddle standing behind The White Lotus belies a deep pedigree. It’s based mostly on a guide by Liane Moriarty, the creator of Huge Little Lies. David E. Kelley, who tailored Huge Little Lies for HBO, is a co-creator, overseeing an impressively stacked solid: Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Regina Corridor, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Manny Jacinto and extra. This can be a shiny occasion collection. So why does it really feel so small?
Definitely the timing doesn’t assist. The White Lotus, from writer-director Mike White, was a mordant and pressing collection, capturing sure zeitgeist considerations with bracing readability and lyricism. Coming so quickly after that, 9 Good Strangers appears flimsy, superficial in execution—a nasty distinction to the rigorously wrought superficiality of White Lotus’s characters. Had 9 Good Strangers come at one other time, perhaps it might shine as its personal factor.
Alternatively, it may need all the time appeared programmatic and off, a sellable thought to be flaunted fairly than an really wealthy and layered textual content. Generally there may be nothing incorrect with flimsiness. Within the case of 9 Good Strangers, although, a depth appears meant; the present’s emotional epiphanies and darkish twists are supposed to actually imply one thing. But it surely all tumbles out of the actors’ mouths in predetermined paragraphs, ones that talk to ache and remorse and loss in broad generalizations.
The present makes an effort so as to add as a lot idiosyncrasy as potential. Every character is a jumble of quirks and pointy backstory: Corridor performs a chipper divorcee whose sunny disposition does, in fact, often give method to scary bursts of rage. Shannon is a dorky dad whose enthusiasm masks a howling grief that’s, naturally, entangled with primal concepts of manhood. McCarthy’s character, a tough-cookie bestselling creator whose profession is sputtering out, continues to be reeling from an embarrassing con she fell sufferer to. There may be element there, leaping off the pages of a pitch doc. However within the execution, every part will get flattened right into a bland assertion about indignant People whose modernity, self-involvement, and defensive crouches have alienated them from their true selves. There may be nothing terribly novel about that, nor in all of the warmed over jokes about wellness tradition.
The primary 4 episodes plod and plod, taking part in like a lot preamble because the precise plot groans slowly into movement. When an enormous, series-defining reveal does lastly arrive about midway by means of the collection, it’s a thudding anticlimax. All that buildup for that? The arithmetic of determining how a collection needs to be paced out, and over what number of episodes—or if it needs to be a collection in any respect, fairly than a film—is troublesome. I don’t envy the duty put earlier than the inventive workforce behind 9 Good Strangers. However their calculation is off; there doesn’t appear to be sufficient story to hold throughout eight hour-long episodes. Perhaps one thing massive is ready in the previous couple of installments of the collection, through which case I’ll eat my phrases. Nonetheless, the present calls for a number of persistence from audiences who’re already treading water in a sea of tv choices.
There are stretches of the present which can be compelling sufficient, largely as a result of the actors pedal as quick as they will to create some friction. Corridor does a superb unraveling because the episodes go, whereas Grace van Patten, as an early twenty-something in mourning, creates a few of the present’s extra naturalistic, human moments so far. I’m nonetheless undecided the place I’m on Kidman’s Russian-accented retreat chief Masha; Kidman is all the time enjoyable to observe by means of a efficiency, however her icy watchfulness isn’t used successfully sufficient right here. We’re purported to need extra from her withholding character—a lot of the strain of the collection is ready on Masha to disclose extra of what’s really occurring—however that grows tiresome. Kidman is sweet at taking part in a secret, however even she will be able to’t tantalize endlessly.
Hopefully she a minimum of felt at residence in her native Australia, the place the collection was filmed. The retreat is meant to be in California, however the panorama is clearly not of our hemisphere. (I suppose it’s a blessing that 9 Good Strangers didn’t set itself in Hawaii, like The White Lotus.) Whereas lovely, the clear un-Americanness of the surroundings is a pebble within the viewer’s shoe, a continuing reminder that the present’s entire development feels artificial.
https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/08/08/a-star-studded-cast-tries-to-be-better-in-nine-perfect-strangers | A Star-Studded Solid Tries to Be Higher in ‘9 Good Strangers’