Can years of deep-seated trauma, guilt and insecurity be treated with a massage and hot springs? Nope. Can you count on the rich to try anyway? Yes.
In Nine Perfect Strangers, the first three episodes of which are out on Amazon Prime Video, a motley crew of distressed Americans travel to a remote resort for what's meant to be a week of rest and relaxation. In actuality, they're hoping for a complete overhaul of their lives. Each one is trying to break out of their own rut, from novelist Frances (Melissa McCarthy), whose career is on the downswing to drug-addicted former athlete Tony (Bobby Cannavale) to recent divorcee Carmel (Regina Hall). Joining them are the Marconis (Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie), grappling with the death of their teenage son, their daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten) and wealthy one-percenters Jessica (Samara Weaving) and Ben (Melvin Gregg), there in a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. Lars (Luke Evans), is a mysterious addition to the group, a man who seems more intent on deciphering what the cure to all ills entails rather than just availing of it. He might be right — if there's anything that films like A Cure For Wellness (2016) have taught us, it's that the cures peddled by new-age, utopian wellness centres often come with a hefty price tag attached.
Adapted from Liane Moriarty's novel of the same name, the show unites Big Little Lies writer-producer David E. Kelley and actor Nicole Kidman to tackle multiple genres. The lifestyle of Instagram-obsessed Jessica becomes a satirical take on influencer culture. Frances and Tony get off to an abrasive start but find themselves drawn to each other in some semblance of a comedic romance track. And the Marconis, victims of a tragedy, are steeped in grief and loss.
The resort Tranquillum, headed by founder Masha (Kidman), is Postcard-perfect, with greenery for miles, natural springs, and domesticated deer. The atmosphere, however, steadily grows more eerie. Hidden cameras dot the premises and staff insist on collecting frequent blood samples from the guests on flimsy pretexts. Is Masha, framed by her halo-like golden hair, the real deal? Or is she simply preying on the wealthy at their most vulnerable? Many of the treatments are vaguely cultish and the relationships between the fragile, irritable guests gradually fray to a breaking point. The series gets off to a slow start, but as one staff member puts it, it's a powder keg waiting to explode.
Recommendation in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video.