The precedent for the collaboration between Nicole Kidman and producer David E. Kelley in the addictive Big Little Lies set the bar very high, but fans who might be hoping for a similar result might be a little disappointed by Nine Perfect Strangers. This new eight-chapter miniseries starring the Australian actress is based on the bestseller with the same title by writer Liane Moriarty (who also wrote Big Little Lies). It deals with the experience of nine guests who are staying in an exclusive rest and wellness centre called Tranquillum House. There they discover that the therapies to which they are subjected are very different from what they had expected.
The series has some suspense and a lot of melodrama, but unlike the plot of Big Little Lies it is not particularly believable. What’s more, Nicole Kidman’s performance can hardly be described as her best to date, while her long wig and over-the-top Russian accent does not help the situation either. Kidman plays the mysterious Masha, the head of the centre and a woman with a complicated past as an executive who decided to change her life and create the luxurious therapeutic wellness centre to help her guests overcome stress through unconventional means, such as the use of hypnosis and hallucinogenic substances.
The guests (the strangers of the title), have in common the fact that they do not feel at ease with their own lives. On the one hand, there are the three members of the Marconi family, the parents and a daughter, who can’t overcome the suicide of a relative. The father, played masterfully by Michael Shannon, is the one who believes more than the others that the stay in Traquillum can help them. The rest of the guests are Jessica and Ben, a young rich couple who have seen how money cannot solve the ups and downs of their relationship; the housewife Carmel, who is traumatised by her husband’s infidelity and divorce; Lars, a journalist, who is the only one of the guests who suspects there is something wrong with Tranquillum; Frances, a successful writer with self-esteem problems and quite an awkward life, and finally Tony, a former American football star who lost it all when he got injured and who has become ever more cynical over the years. It is the relationship that forms between Frances, played by the hilarious Melissa McCarthy, and Tony, played by the great Bobby Cannavale, which is one of the reasons why it is worth watching the series.
As the story progresses, we discover different aspects of the guests’ personalities, but also about Masha and the assistants of the centre, which works almost like a sect. Curious ties are also established between them, sometimes alliances, sometimes rivalries, while sharing experiences and traumatic memories that have marked their lives. And as the relationships develop, the experience of relaxation, well-being and vital renewal that has been promised to the guests turns into something of a nightmare. In fact, there comes a point when the guests, who had to hand over their mobile phones when they arrived at the centre, are completely isolated and begin to suspect that their lives may even be in danger.