Plot: Based on The New York Times best-selling book by author Liane Moriarty, “Nine Perfect Strangers” takes place in a boutique health and wellness resort that promises healing and transformation as nine stressed-out city dwellers try to head toward a best way to live. living. Taking care of them during this 10-day retreat is the resort’s director, Masha, a woman on a mission to revitalize their tired minds and bodies. However, these nine “perfect” strangers have no idea what to expect.
Review: Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley have partnered on Big little lies other The Undo, two best-selling novel adaptations that were critically successful on HBO. His third collaboration, based on a novel by the author of Big little lies, shakes things up a bit with an all-star cast and eerie plot that showcases the acting talents of everyone involved while enhancing the original material. Nine Perfect Strangers is an intriguing character drama with a dark sense of humor that resonates within a narrative peppered with subplots that keep you unraveling the true motivations of everyone involved.
When the project was first announced, I read the novel by Lianne Moriarty. With shifting perspectives and quick chapters, I read the book and found it a bit disappointing. Since the initial trailers for the Hulu series, I noticed a lot of scenes that I couldn’t align with the events of the novel. Having watched six of the eight-episode miniseries, I understand that this is because this is a fundamentally different story than the one in the novel. While the main setting and backstories for the main cast remain consistent with the book, there is much more to this adaptation than meets the eye. Starting with Nicole Kidman’s character, the enigmatic Masha, and the cryptic messages she receives that threaten her life, it’s clear that David E. Kelley and director Jonathan Levine aimed to create something more like an Agatha Christie story.
The move from Australia to California doesn’t alter the plot that much, as we find nine people heading to a dedicated health center for very different reasons. Frances Welty (Melissa McCarthy) is a romance novelist who is reeling from a recent encounter with a con artist. The Marconi family, led by Napoleon (Michael Shannon), Heather (Asher Keddie) and her daughter Zoe (Grave Van Patten) are dealing with the suicide of their son Zach. Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica Chandler (Samara Weaving) are having marital problems, while Carmel (Regina Hall) aims to lose weight and gain confidence. Lars Lee (Luke Evans) has ulterior motives, while Tony (Bobby Cannavale) hides his own personal demons. All of them, handpicked by Masha, are forced to deal with their problems while undergoing a unique regimen at Tranquilium House.
Each episode includes brief revelations about what led each of these nine people to seek a Masha transformation. Masha herself, with the help of Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone), has a past that haunts her again. While things start with an aspirational perspective, elements of civilized society begin to crumble. Nine perfect strangers presents this story with some of the mysterious twists of series like Lost Crusade with Lord of the Flies. Here’s a comment on topics like opioid addiction, teen suicide, body dysmorphia, and even social media addiction, but all of that feels superficial. The main story here really focuses on why these people are here and there is a darker connection between all of them.
Developed by David E. Kelley and Jez Butterworth (Ford v. Ferrari), Nine perfect strangers it looks beautiful as it takes advantage of Australian filming locations that look much more exotic than California. Aside from the rather prominent profanity and mild nudity, these series could have aired on network television. The benefit of being on a streaming service like Hulu is the bigger budget it brought together such a talented cast. Nicole Kidman is better than she’s been to The Undo or Big little lies, and that’s saying something. For their third collaboration in recent years, Melissa McCarthy and Bobby Cannavale capitalize on their chemistry and both deliver performances that I didn’t expect. Michael Shannon is much more low-key than he usually is, while Samara Weaving, Regina Hall, and Luke Evans play their roles and seem to have fun with them.
This series will do very well because Hulu is taking the traditional approach of premiering episodes weekly rather than compulsively watching them. Each episode ends with so many open-ended questions that tuning into subsequent chapters will get audiences excited about what’s going on. I’m very glad that enough of the novel has been changed that even those familiar with the source material will be amazed at how certain plot threads connect. Nine perfect strangers it is a rare example of when an adaptation improves upon the original material. It is also, like Rian Johnson Knives out, an example of why star marquee projects that are assembled correctly can display star power equal to acting prowess. A fun, mystery thriller with enough laughs and twists to keep you engaged. Nine perfect strangers is a fun late summer game.
Nine perfect strangers premieres on August 18 on Hulu.