Nine Perfect Strangers


Definitely strange, far from perfect

Main Cast: Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy

Creator: David. E. Kelley

What happens when you take nine people with the resources to spend a week at a very exclusive wellness retreat and place them in the hands of Nicole Kidman? Weirdness, that’s what. Nine Perfect Strangers, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, makes excellent use of Kidman’s ethereal otherworldliness to get into the heads of its group of…nine perfect strangers.

Nine Perfect Strangers takes place at Tranquillum. This is the kind of place that people go when they feel broken and in need of complete transformation. Our group of nine each has their own reasons for being there, which unfold over the eight episodes of this Hulu original limited series.

Kidman stars as Masha, the Russian head of Tranquillum. She is mysterious and very much in control. Her guests for this session (one session at a time at Tranquillum) start with a grieving family. The Marconi family consists of father Napoleon (Michael Shannon), mother Heather (Asher Keddie), and daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten). They have been given a substantial discount to the retreat as they approach a painful date.

Melissa McCarthy is Frances Welty, a popular author having a career crisis. Bobby Cannavale is the boorish Tony, seemingly bent on offending everyone. Luke Evans is Lars, whose motives for attending the retreat are suspect.

Jessica and Ben (Samara Weaving and Melvin Gregg) are a young couple with a troubled marriage. Carmel (Regina Hall) is trying to get over the pain of her divorce. Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone) are Tranquillum employees, both in a little over their heads.

We learn more about each character as they make their way through the odd rituals of this particular retreat. Primal screams, hot springs, communing with nature – those are the normal parts. Masha makes sure that the experience is significantly more interesting than long talks and healthy diets.

I won’t tell you more about what transpires at Tranquillum. That would spoil Nine Perfect Strangers. And while it’s interesting, it isn’t what carries the series. Somehow, creator David E. Kelley and his team of writers manage to pull us in and make us invest in this initially unlikable set of characters. That is why the series succeeds to the level that it does.

The characters that ground the show and provide much needed comic relief are those played by Cannavale and McCarthy. Tony and Frances are oil and water, but they have no choice but to be together for the duration of their stay.

The Marconi family carries the dramatic weight of the show, with their heavy grief and pent-up guilt. Michael Shannon is fantastic as the awkward Napoleon who tries too hard at all things. Asher Keddie’s Heather is so emotionally fragile that it sometimes hurts to look at her.

The rest of the cast fills in the spaces around these central four guests and Masha.

Kidman’s Masha is so weird and wonderful. She’s icy cold but incredibly persuasive. She’s controlled and controlling, haunted and frighteningly intense. She messes with everyone. We see her from the perspective of the guests and Yao and Delilah. That is two very, very different perspectives.

As the series pulls its threads together it becomes a mostly interesting, mostly enjoyable show. There are mysteries and secrets and revelations and touching moments. The cast was well chosen and rises to the occasion and each performance is solid. Tranquillum itself is both beautifully natural and creepily sterile, exactly as it needs to be.

Overall, Nine Perfect Strangers is a good entry into the limited series genre. It has a story, takes the time to tell it well, and does so with good production values and a great cast. It is a Hulu original, so you can find it streaming there.

More Hulu Originals

Only Murders in the Building ~ Shrill ~ Into the Dark: Flesh and Blood

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