Nicole Kidman Leads Nine Perfect Strangers Through Tense New Age Melodrama
Nine Perfect Strangers. Available Wednesday, August 18, on Hulu.
The scene that precedes the opening credits in Nine Perfect Strangers, Hulu’s new excursion into health-resort hell, is a perfect metaphor. All these lovely, succulent fruits and vegetables are placed in a sensual food-porn arrangement inside a blender. Then the blades whirl to murderous life, hacking flesh and spitting juice everywhere. The question is, a perfect metaphor for what? The nine resort guests who are the drama’s principal characters? Or executive producer David E. Kelley’s carefully presented, yet ultimately cockeyed, show? If you figure it out, let me know.
I’m an enormous fan of Kelley’s work, which features witty dialogue, fine-hewn characters and tense plot lines. Nine Perfect Strangers has all those things, too, but not consistently and never at the same time. Sometimes it seems to be a lampoon of New Age self-help fads; other times, an encomium to self-lacerating encounter-group culture; and occasionally, a creepy stalker drama. These are not the makings of a good jigsaw puzzle, even when the pieces have the faces of actors like Nicole Kidman, Bobby Cannavale, Melissa McCarthy and Regina Hall.
Adapted from a 2018 book by Australian novelist Liane Moriarty (who also wrote Big Little Lies, the foundation of another Kidman/Kelley package a couple of years ago), Nine Perfect Strangers is about nine clients at an exclusive and expensive California spa called Tranquillum House, the sort of place where everybody is always saying “namaste.” Nobody is there for anything as simple as losing a few pounds.
McCarthy plays Frances, a brittle romance novelist whose recent activities have included being catfished and losing her book contract. “I’m not medi
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