Nine Perfect Strangers

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Melissa McCarthy in Nine Perfect Strangers.
Melissa McCarthy in Nine Perfect Strangers.
Screegrab: YouTube/Amazon Prime Video UK

SHOW:

Nine Perfect Strangers

WHERE TO WATCH:

Amazon Prime Video

OUR RATING:

3/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

Nine stressed city-dwellers head to the picturesque boutique beauty and wellness resort that promises healing and transformation. During their 10-day retreat, the resort's director Masha (Nicole Kidman), sets her sights on reinvigorating the group, but they have no idea what's about to hit them.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

Okay, before I share what I thought of Nine Perfect Strangers, I must confess that I totally missed the Big Little Lies bus. So, when the team that brought us the award-winning series reunited for a glossy, cult-like thriller, I grabbed the chance to see if the David E Kelley and Liane Moriarty combo was all it was hyped up to be.

In Nine Perfect Strangers, streaming on Amazon Prime in South Africa, we meet nine stressed individuals who have escaped to boutique health-and-wellness resort, Tranquillum House. The mysterious and well-hidden retreat promises healing and transformation – be it to lose weight, get a reboot on life, or heal from past traumas that its inhabitants can't admit to themselves.

The big draw of this show is unsurprisingly Nicole Kidman. She plays Russian emigrée, Masha, CEO of a big corporation before extreme circumstances compelled her to change her life and open a health spa. However, with a less than convincing accent and a wig that looks like it belongs on a Disney princess impersonator at a kiddies party, it's the rest of the cast that steals the show.

Helping Masha keep the calm are her two minions Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone). Both of them have their own demons that the audience gradually catches a glimpse of. Jacinto and Boone are vitally important in contributing to the authoritative magnetic power that we are supposed to feel from Kidman. Unfortunately, their presence carries her performance way more than it should, but thankfully it does.

Then we move on to the nine lucky guests, or shall I say, isolated victims, who become Masha's antagonists.

There is young couple Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica (Samara Weaving) who are battling with marital issues caused by strains most of us would like the chance to do battle with; scruff and tough Tony (Bobby Cannavale), who is unsuccessfully looking for any distraction to avoid dealing with his own demons; and the deceivingly innocent and sweet divorcee Carmel (Regina Hall) who just wants to reap the rewards the wellness retreat promises. Additionally, we have the cynical Lars (Luke Evans), who appears to be mysterious and a bit strange; charismatic, bestselling author Frances (Melissa McCarthy), who is there to be pampered after a few harsh blows. And finally, the imploding Marconi family - made up of nerdish-dad Napoleon (Michael Shannon), grieving mom Heather (Asher Keddie) and in-denial twin sister Zoe (Grace Van Patten).

This entire ensemble fit their character profiles to a tee. Still, the spotlight has to be given to Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, and, I never thought I'd say this, but Melissa McCarthy.

I have never experienced Regina Hall, who tends to play headstrong dynamos or comedic scatterbrains, take on a role such as Carmel. And judging by an interview with The Cut, Hall wasn't so sure about how she would bring Carmel to life – "I'm like, 'I'm not going to be able to do it! Why'd I take this job? Who is Carmel?' Because she's not one of my normal archetypes." Thankfully, some internal digging helped Hall build a character that I am sure will finally give the 50-year-old the credit she deserves. Everything from her voice to her appearance to all the little things that go unnoticed but are essential in building a convincing character. Hall did it all, and she did it exceptionally well.

I'm simply giving Cannavale a shout out because of the chemistry he has with McCarthy. Frances brings out something in Tony that would have been totally missed had it been any other actor pairing. This brings me to what surprised me most about this show – how good Melissa McCarthy was. I am no fan of the actor who brought us, TammyThe Happy Time Murders and most recently, the poorly executed Thunder Force. But holy moly, in the four episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers that I have watched, I found myself looking for McCarthy's presence when she wasn't on screen. I think it's because I finally feel like she is not trying to be funny, pretentious, or purposely acting silly. I honestly just love her in a more serious role. Sorry to Nicole Kidman, but this show would be useless without McCarthy.

Nine Perfect Strangers has kept me nervously waiting for something to happen thus far. Only time will tell if the subtle reveals in each episode will explode into an unpredictable turn of events. Or if it will dissolve into something that will easily be forgotten. One thing I will say that has me leaning towards the latter is how the series creators seem to have opted for a relay race of feelings over focussing on a few strong narrative arcs making the show perfectly enjoyable but too overstuffed to feel richly satisfying.

Regardless, I am more than happy to watch this show to the end. It is entertaining, thrilling and has a talented cast. I will also definitely be reading Liane Moriarty's novel with the same name.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

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