Best Selling author Liane Moriarty made her mainstream splash with the HBO mini-series adaptation of her novel Big Little Lies starring Shalene Woodly, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Following the major success of the adaptation, Kidman and Big Little Lies producer David E. Kelley teamed up with Moriarty to create another adapted mini-series this time for Hulu based on her novel, Nine Perfect Strangers.
Does the newest adaptation live up to his novel counterpart? Or does one Nicole Kidman character drama blend into the other without much distinction or intrigue?
The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And finally, is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Nine Perfect Strangers
Overall rating: Decent
Readers and fans of Moriarty are familiar with the novel Nine Perfect Strangers and are aware that it was a pretty significant departure from Moriarty’s signature style. Her previous novels, What Alice Forgot, The Husband’s Secret, and A Hypnotist’s Love Story amongst others are more in-line with the “everyday thriller” format of Big Little Lies. Focusing on a fairly forced situational set up, the thrill of Nine Perfect Strangers is more a slow creep than it is a traditional mystery.
Mid-way through the series, Nine Perfect Strangers plays careful homage to the colorful characters written by Moriarity and demonstrates mastery of a well loved style of film which communicates a crisp affluence through the use of certain colors, filters and settings (I think I’m going to call it “wealth porn” from now on).
However, the pace is extremely slow which creates a significant drag on the overall experience and quality of viewing. Nine perfect strangers would almost certainly have played out better as a single two hour film instead of stretched into a mini-series. As it is, the series is worth watching to keep up with the buzz but not particularly brilliant.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Pretty slow
Though the series has some interesting and dramatic character development as well as some quippy comedic relief primarily from Melissa McCarthy (Spy, Bridesmaids) as Frances Welty; the overall storyline drags well beyond what is necessary to move the plot forward.
Moreover, the way the story is dragged out is in a clear effort from the writers to simply extend episodes instead of as a necessity to build tension or character development. A lot of ground is recovered, monologues are over exhausted and time lapses are underused.
With a few more episodes to go, viewers will be wondering what exactly the point of the show is and thinking they very likely have wasted quite a bit of time to reach the ultimate climax.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Nine Perfect Strangers, per its title, is heavily reliant on its cast of characters and for the most part, the ensemble of seasoned actors delivers. As always outshining her costars, Melissa McCarthy is a perfect and nuanced blend of heart and comedy, serving relatable skepticism and vulnerability so artfully the viewer will think they’re getting to know Melissa herself instead of her character, Frances Welty.
Manny Jacinto as Yao is all cheekbones and brooding which is a major departure for those familiar with the actor as the lovable, Jacksonville native, Jason from NBC’s the Good Place. Jacinto. Jacinto is unrecognizable in his role and coming just in advance of his big screen debut in Top Gun: Maverick, Jacinto is almost certainly going to rocket to super stardom in the near future.
Household names; Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Midway), Michael Shannon (Shape of Water, Knives Out), Regina Hall (Girls Trip, Breaking News in Yuba County), all show up and dive into their characters well creating a sense of diversity and chaos.
Fresher faces Melvin Gregg (Snowfall, The United States versus Billie Holiday) and Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, The Babysitter) bring surprisingly top performances, particularly in the case of Weaving, bringing larger than life characters down to earth.
Surprisingly, Nicole Kidman is the drag on the case with a very poor Russian accent as the character “Masha” a Russian born new-age healing guru. While the character is Russian in the novel, there is no particular reason the character HAS to be Russian and with as much as Kidman struggled with the accent, the better choice would have been to make the character Australian.
“Wealth porn” is a viewer favorite stylistically and Nine Perfect Strangers fits the bill. In all greens, blues and neutrals, viewers can practically smell the expensive linen and fresh organic fruits. The series aesthetic is one of its strongest attributes, not least of which is the frequent and incredibly satisfying footage of industrial blenders making smoothies from the perspective of the ingredients.
Overall the effect is a well done formulaically driven series with strong performances and one bad accent too many. A good showing and a worthy effort.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Though the series focuses on holistic healing and controversial medicinal methods, the conservative community is not in itself particularly liberal albeit a bit socially progressive. Wth a blend of traditional family values with more liberal lifestyles the show is quite unclear what is being villainized and celebrated if anything at all.
Without knowing the final outcome of the characters, the moral directive is at best vague and seemingly apolitical.
Nine Perfect Strangers is a propaganda free “wealth porn” series that should have been a movie. With strong performances and a beautifully curated aesthetic but not enough material to keep viewers interested, Nine Perfect Strangers achieves enough to keep watching but not quite enough to contend for any awards or be particularly memorable.