A show that really got under my skin was The Undoing on Disney+Hotstar. The six-part limited series is, as we say in India, star-studded. Nicole Kidman is lead and executive co-producer. She plays Grace Fraser; Hugh Grant, his handsome face now frayed but the British charm still intact, plays her husband, Jonathan. There’s the formidable Donald Sutherland, playing Grace’s father, Franklin Reinhardt, Edgar Ramirez as detective Joe Mendoza and terrific teen actor Noah Jupe as Grace and Jonathan’s 12-year-old son, Henry.
The Frasers live in an idyllic circle of wealth, influence and luxury. She is a therapist and he, a pediatric oncologist. Henry attends an elite private school. They have a happy marriage and a great relationship with their son. But the title sequence, in which a little girl, Grace presumably, bursts a large bubble foreshadows what is to come. Trouble arrives in the form of Elena Alves, a scholarship mom, who at a high-powered school committee meeting whips out her breast to feed her infant daughter. Elena is smoldering, beguiling and deeply unnerving. She starts to show up, a little too frequently, at places where Grace happens to be. The Frasers’ happy family façade soon unravels.
The Undoing has been created by David E. Kelley, who was also behind Big Little Lies, and directed by Susanne Bier, who earlier directed The Night Manager. The series is based on a book called You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Kelley and Bier change the book substantially, making it a psychological thriller but also a portrait of class war, privilege and marriage. Early in the series, we see Grace advising her patients about their relationships. But the truth is that she herself is in love with a man who she doesn’t know after 14 years of being his wife.
Kidman, her alabaster face, framed by her blazing orange hair, is superb as a woman struggling to keep afloat as the foundation of her life crumbles. She’s fierce but also desperate and broken. Hugh Grant is terrific casting. His mannerisms – the pursed lips, half smile, crinkling eyes – can come off as alluring or deceitful. There’s also the enduring memory of the adorable heroes he has played in romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Like Grace, we want to believe in him.
The Undoing is tense and twisty but it’s also beautifully shot and glossy. The plush New York apartments, Grace’s velvet and chiffon wardrobe, the textures of rich, meticulously curated lives are on display. The polished visuals underline the degrees of deception being played out. Stories about rich lives falling apart usually offer a degree of perverse satisfaction because we feel that while we may not have their money, at least we are happier. The Undoing is too complex for that. Instead the series asks us to consider if we can truly know anyone, even those we know. I guarantee that you will binge watch this one.
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