Nine Perfect Strangers is based on the Liane Moriarty novel by the same name. Starring Nicole Kidman as Masha, a spiritual therapist, she is reputed to heal all wounds of her wealthy clients at her wellness retreat, Tranquillum.
Following closely after the release of White Lotus (see my August 17, 2021 review), the same territory is explored: why do uber-rich white people seem so unhappy? There is the damaged novelist (Melissa McCarthy) who just can’t trust anyone. Another has a virulent past of drug addiction (the superb Bobby Cannavale as a physically damaged athlete) ,Another couple (played by Michael Shannon and Addie Keddie) and their adult daughter grieve over the death of their son, Young marrieds provide the much-desired mystery tension. An investigative reporter and a fragile divorcee ( Luke Evans and Regina Hall) round out the group. Who is going to die?
Nine Perfect Strangers could have been so much more. Purportedly about the self-help movement and its tendencies to be a scam preying on the wounded affluent, this series could have satirized the “perfect strangers” wounds, their slights and neuroses. The staff who cater to their clientele’s demands, no matter how unreasonable, and to their boss, Masha, are angry and servile at the same time, Again channeling White Lotus. More of their anger and their dreams were sorely needed.
And let’s look at Masha. A Russian emigre and highly successful former corporate CEO, Masha suffers from multiple traumatic experiences which we see in flashbacks. Trauma is the impetus for leaving her adrenaline-pumped life for the tranquil retreat she builds for those like herself: sufferers who need and want to move on. Nicole Kidman seems drugged, coated with a Russian accent so annoying it is difficult to decipher what she is saying. Such a travesty of a role for a great actress. What was she thinking?
Only Melissa McCarthy, as the demoralized author of romance novels, is watchable. In every scene she is commanding. The viewer feels motivated to hang in there and not reach for the remote. But even she cannot save Nine Perfect Strangers from its abject imperfections. If you watch this to the conclusion of the ten episodes, you are likely to raise the same question I asked myself: “Why did I waste my time watching this?”