Nine Perfect Strangers review: Nicole Kidman and Michael Shannon shine in thrilling limited series
Lottery winner, drug addict former footballer, and grieving family walk into a bar. Well, more like a smoothie bar. Nine Perfect Strangers, the latest collaboration between author Liane Moriarty and Nicole Kidman (and adapted for television by David E. Kelley and John Henry Butterworth), is a captivating limited series on Hulu that follows a group of individuals all brought to the magnificent Tranquillum House for a retreat well-being. As they learn more about their cryptic host and what brought them there, it’s clear nothing is as peaceful as it seems.
Masha (Kidman) is the mysterious head of House Tranquillum, a woman who was declared clinically dead after a near-fatal accident, and who made it her mission to radically change lives during her rebirth. She manually selects each group of visitors, allowing only those who need her help most to receive her. With a small handful of assistants (two key employees are played by Manny Jacinto and Tiffany Boone), Masha cultivates an enigmatic experience in the magnificent spa set in the heart of an undefined Napa Valley landscape, far from prying eyes and all those in the know. which threatens to disrupt Masha’s very explicit plans.
Every guest has come to Tranquillum looking for help, spiritual guidance, or just a good old-fashioned R&R. Francis (Melissa McCarthy, also executive producer) is a novelist seeking inspiration and relaxation after an online relationship turns out to be a scam; Tony (Bobby Cannavale) is struggling with opioid addiction following a sports injury; married couple Jessica (Samara Weaving) and Ben (Melvin Gregg) have lost their spark; Carmel (Regina Hall) is reeling from the family drama and insecurities induced by motherhood; and the Marconi family (Asher Keddie, Michael Shannon and Grace Van Patten) seek to reconnect after a death nearly tears their family apart. The ninth and final guest, Lars (Luke Evans), is the most watched and does not immediately elaborate on why he arrived at the Tranquillum house.
Like Big little lies, also adapted from a novel written by Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers excels at balancing its incredible overall distribution. Every performance in the series is well performed and very engaging. Throughout the series, different activities, like an all-male foraging trip, bring together different groups of guests, and each new combination further complicates the relationship dynamics that seemed so certain upon their arrival. The seemingly vain Jessica and the insecure Carmel walk around frequently, as do Tony and Francis, and it’s thrilling to see the bonds that eventually develop between them. In addition, each guest also benefits from an individual session with Masha during their stay, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in their psyche by their side.
Among the star-studded cast, Kidman and Shannon give exceptional performances. Masha is a walking contradiction, at times warm and inviting, but able to take on icy demeanor in the blink of an eye. She is inherently confident and challenges anyone to disagree with her, especially when it comes to protocol, the evasive way she refers to the treatment her guests receive. It seems that Masha calculated every move; not just hers, but also the movements of each guest and worker of Tranquillum House. Shannon, meanwhile, expertly plays a goofy, repressed father who struggles to understand how his family can endure such a tragedy. As he goes through this grief, his vulnerability is palpable. Although his wife and daughter experience similar pain, Shannon’s performance is skillfully subtle and incredibly moving.
Nine Perfect Strangers isn’t the first post-pandemic television work with such a luxurious backdrop. In HBO The white lotus, the complex is crucial for the class commentary that is ingrained at the heart of the series. Despite its beauty, the sprawling hotel is stuffy and a powder keg for interpersonal drama. In Nine Perfect Strangers, however, the idyllic facilities are only a backdrop for more effective character studies. These two series could have a similar logic: a group of rich and white people arrive at a magnificent complex, only to discover that there is more than just relaxation in the store. Corn Nine Perfect Strangers edges out The white lotus, especially in the writing of its characters, offering more depth and a much more compelling group of individuals. To his credit, The white lotus is about horrible people who are unable to see their own privilege, but when the commentary doesn’t go much deeper, it’s hard not to want more. While Nine Perfect Strangers does not necessarily attempt the same critique of wealth as The white lotus, it offers a more gripping look at the quirky and quirky experiences available to the ultra-rich.
Despite her seemingly bizarre healing methods, Masha really wants to help all visitors to Tranquillum House and thinks she is. Her ideas are weird and fascinating, and encourage guests to look within to finally overcome whatever is holding them back from the happiness that she knows is possible in their entire lives. Once they give in to it completely, the results are empowering and sometimes frightening. After savoring the six episodes made available for review, the final two can’t come soon enough. Nine Perfect Strangers takes us on the ride – a trippy, intense and exhilarating ride – and like the guests of the Tranquillum House, it’s best that we buckle up and let it go.
Nine Perfect Strangers premieres Wednesday, August 18, with a drop of three episodes. The following episodes will be released weekly on Hulu.
Kristen Reid is a cultural editor and TV intern for Paste Magazine. She has been known to spend too much time revisiting her favorite sitcoms, yelling at her friends to watch more TV, and falling in love with fictional characters. You can follow her on Twitter @kreidd for late night thoughts on everything she eats now.
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