Nine Perfect Strangers review: Nicole Kidman’s chic drama flatters to cheat

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Comparisons to “The White Lotus” are inevitable, but David E. Kelley’s latest show has a central mystery that is rather confusing and silly.

It’s a shame that the first three episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers aired the same week as the excellent The white lotus concluded. The comparisons, as we know, are odious, but irresistible especially given the similarity of the two shows. Both shows take place at posh seaside resorts in “a version of paradise,” as the resort manager puts it in Old, another story set in a chic seaside resort. Vacationers to these resorts are getting more than they bargained for as their lives crumble.

Nine Perfect Strangers shares a Creator (David E. Kelley), Sources (Liane Moriarty Novels) and a Star (Nicole Kidman) with Big little lies. Here too, comparisons are inevitable. Both shows have impeccable production values, ensemble cast, and use a central mystery to reveal big and small lies about the seemingly perfect lives of its characters in a small, gated community.

And there the similarity ends. The central mystery of Nine Perfect Strangers is rather confused and silly; no And then there was none-type scenario is going on here. Nine people (very, very stereotypical) come to retire to the chic Tranquillum House in California run by the sculptural Masha (Nicole Kidman).

All of the guests have unresolved traumas, which they hope to heal with the loving care of Masha and her helpers Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone). Despite all its opulence and luxury, there seems to be a curious understaffing at Tranquillum; more on that later.

Guests include Frances (Melissa McCarthy), a writer of romance novels no one wants to read anymore and the victim of a cat fishing scheme; Tony (Bobby Cannavale), a former football star struggling with an addiction; and high school teacher Napoleon (Michael Shannon) with his wife Heather (Asher Keddie) and daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten). The family mourn the death of Zach (Hal Cumpston), Zoe’s twin brother.

Nine Perfect Strangers

  • Episodes: 8
  • Running time: 42 to 55 minutes
  • Creator: David E. Kelley
  • With: Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Asher Keddie, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Tiffany Boone, Manny Jacinto, Grace Van Patten, Zoe Terakes, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale
  • Scenario: Nine people come to an upscale resort for treatment and get more than they bargained for

Lars (Luke Evans) has a secret agenda and relationship issues, just like Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica (Samara Weaving) who won gold with a lottery, but also had the issues that come with it. Carmel (Regina Hall), whose confidence is shattered thanks to her caddish husband, rounds out the motley team of guests.

As the series progresses, we learn of Masha’s background before her Wellness Guru Avatar, who was full of bad choices and toxins, which seem to threaten her life now. She chose these guests, we learn, for a possibly harmful ploy.

The arc in Frances and Tony’s story is the sweetest and we encourage them to reunite from the get-go. McCarthy and Cannavale imbue their characters with a sympathetic normalcy. Evans does what he can with his cliched gay persona, while Weaving’s social influencer comes off as a chuckling teenager. Kidman’s Masha is the most disappointing. Her accent slips disconcertingly, and icy grace slips and stumbles as she single-handedly battles multiple fires thanks to the agonizing understaffing.

There seems to be a lot of mental health issues in Tranquillum with different characters rolling their eyes and making exaggerated impressions of disturbed people. The poignant nature of losing a child gets lost in malarkey and wellness gibberish and an almost fetishistic slow-motion smoothie shoot.

Beautifully shot, in a lovely location, with a good cast, Nine Perfect Strangers unfortunately only flatters to deceive.

Nine Perfect Strangers is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video


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