9 Excellent Strangers: Hulu’s Nicole Kidman automobile is an excessive amount of of a great factor

Nicole Kidman as Masha in Hulu’s 9 Excellent Strangers miniseries.


Hulu‘s unique miniseries 9 Excellent Strangers has all the best components. The present is an adaptation of not only a best-selling novel however a best-selling Liane Moriarty novel. That routinely invitations comparisons to HBO’s crowd-pleasing Moriarty adaptation Massive Little Lies

And its supply materials isn’t the one DNA the present shares with different twisty, prestige-adjacent, thriller-adjacent, limited-run collection. Its listing of government producers, like Massive Little Lies, contains David E. Kelley and Nicole Kidman, each of whom additionally tailored final winter’s soapy HBO miniseries The Undoing

Aesthetically, 9 Excellent Strangers, streaming on Hulu now, takes a web page from the Kelley cinematic universe as nicely. The present’s opening credit are overlaid on a psychedelic nature montage set to a woozy, minor-key pop cowl that sounds prefer it may have been sung by Kidman herself. The setting is a tony well being and wellness resort populated by wealthy, lovely individuals with one to 2 traumatic backstories every. 

And these wealthy, lovely characters are performed by a hodgepodge of actors you’ve seen earlier than in related fare, from BLL/The Undoing alum Kidman to Little Fires In every single place alum Tiffany Boone and Gilmore Women alum Melissa McCarthy. The one ingredient lacking from the successful drama miniseries recipe is Reese Witherspoon, whose manufacturing firm has carved a distinct segment for book-to-television diversifications (Massive Little Lies, Little Fires In every single place, the forthcoming Daisy Jones & The Six).

However for followers of Moriarty or of any of the present’s aforementioned antecedents, combining all the best components doesn’t a repast make. The ensuing combination is basically a “premium streaming content material” Mad Libs with shaggy pacing that curdles preliminary intrigue into principally confusion. Too many cooks within the kitchen.

Nine Perfect Strangers

9 Excellent Strangers premieres on Hulu on Aug. 18.


This time round, Kidman performs manic pixie nightmare Masha, the founding father of boutique well being resort Tranquillum Home who’s acquired a sadistic streak and a villainous Russian accent that sounds prefer it was workshopped throughout the Chilly Struggle. Tranquillum appears nearer to tranquilizer than tranquility, and that’s the purpose. In fiction, the plot is the crucible by means of which characters endure hardship and battle, rising modified on the opposite aspect. Tranquillum’s 10-day retreat is that crucible made literal, comforting the bothered and afflicting the comfy. 

Every character’s private demon should be excised throughout the keep, by means of the allegedly therapeutic protocol designed by Masha. The remedy plan operates below a “the burn says it’s working” mentality, conflating struggling with therapeutic. I’m undecided if that is meant to be a critique of wellness tradition and the asymptotic end line of self-improvement, a critique of the poor wealthy individuals who pay cash to have their traumas cauterized, or a critique of plot mechanics themselves. 

Or possibly it’s not a critique in any respect, however a personality examine. Masha creepily “curates” attendees at her resort, very similar to the mysterious host in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Have been None. And she or he’s assembled fairly the crew. I spent the whole lot of the primary episode ready for every of the titular 9 strangers to succumb to Christie-style deaths, however no cube. 

Learn extra: Right here’s all the pieces coming to Hulu in September

On the heart of the plot is a thriller, however like Massive Little Lies, 9 Excellent Strangers doesn’t actually let you know what it’s. And in contrast to Massive Little Lies, whose nuanced characters felt contemporary and actual, I couldn’t make myself care very a lot about fixing it. I used to be capable of deduce that one thing was afoot primarily based solely on the liberal use of slow-panning establishing photographs and the occasional understanding trade of sustained eye contact between Masha’s henchmen. However even after a number of episodes, the central query driving the collection appears to merely be “What trauma led these individuals to a self-improvement resort?” (And can they self-improve by the tip of their keep?) There’s additionally the query of why everyone seems to be performing so bizarre, however by the point it’s addressed I’ve already accepted the weirdness as the worth of entry to the world of the present. 

And there’s one thing fishy occurring with Masha herself — a near-death expertise; intrusive reminiscences of a little bit woman on a motorcycle; mysterious, threatening textual content messages… However her character is so diabolically goofy, I’m hesitant to take a position a lot vitality in worrying about it. When it’s unclear whether or not you’re even asking the best questions, it’s arduous to observe bread crumbs of intrigue that might simply as possible dead-end.

Tonally, 9 Excellent Strangers is all over, a melting pot of comedy, romance, magical realism, horror and suspense. All through their keep at Tranquillum, the 9 strangers flit by means of the woods like Hermia and Lysander. They writhe and scream like sufferers below Nurse Ratched’s care. They bask in determined credulity like characters in a NXIVM cult docuseries. They bicker and assault one another, they fall in love, they hallucinate, they share deep, darkish secrets and techniques, they compete in a potato sack race.


See? They actually do have a potato sack race at Tranquillum Home.


The characters’ causes for attending the resort vary from the tragic to the mundane. There’s the couple grappling with the latest dying of their son. Then there’s the couple grappling with the pressures of… social media? McCarthy performs novelist Frances, the closest factor to an viewers analogue. Her private demon is the weirdest, involving a catfishing rip-off. Every character’s psychological flaw is a spoke extending from the self-improvement wheel hub, and every spoke appears to take the present in a special path. Frances splits the distinction with a veneer of sarcasm that’s each humorous and unhappy. (“I’m not meditating, simply despondently staring into the gaping void,” she says.) 

The images and set design are lovely, and lots of the performances are transferring — Bobby Canavale’s wounded ex-athlete and Michael Shannon’s grieving father are significantly poignant. However the shapelessness of the story and the vagueness of its mysteries give the sense this miniseries was constructed by some type of algorithm. The forged’s clamorous assortment of grief, betrayal, dedication phobia, loneliness {and professional} failure creates a screenwriting problem that Kelley and workforce can’t fairly meet. Maybe 9 excellent strangers is simply too many to get to know in a restricted run.

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