After finishing The White Lotus I was left, like many people, with a void to fill. What else can I watch in the genre of ‘rich white people behaving badly’ when I don’t want to watch the news? Thankfully, Hulu was ready and waiting to drop Nine Perfect Strangers, a TV adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name. The miniseries stars Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, and many others, with a special shout-out to Manny Jacinto. Set at an exclusive, enigmatic, expensive wellness retreat that surely goes wrong (not a spoiler, just me using logic), the series is, so far, a powder keg of eccentric personalities waiting to explode. That said, although I am enjoying the series (and waiting for the other shoe to drop), there are a few things that even I couldn’t suspend my disbelief high enough for. Maybe my questions will be answered, or maybe they’re just plot holes. Warning: There are some slight spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen episode three, catch up now or forever hold your peace.
Nicole Kidman’s Accent
It’s like saving the best for last, except the opposite, because I’m putting the worst first and starting with what we are all thinking: what is with Nicole Kidman’s Russian accent? I’m basically Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man in that I am terrible at accents, so I’m not really going to critique Nicole on the particulars, but I will say that her Russian affect is extremely spotty. It comes and goes like T-Mobile cell service in New York City. I can’t decide what’s worse: Nicole Kidman’s half-committed Russian accent or Lady Gaga’s Italian accent in House of Gucci that is actually closer to Russian. But either way, I have yet to see why Nicole’s character had to be Russian at all. Just let her do her American accent (that also comes and goes) and call it a day.
I haven’t read the book, but I’m told that Smiley Hogburn is, in fact, the name of the character in the novel (who is played by Bobby Cannavale in the Hulu miniseries). The thing about the book, though, is that Smiley Hogburn is a former star of Australian Rules Football, since the book takes place in Australia (where Moriarty is from). It is not American football. (I asked my friend in Australia and she said it’s sort of like a mix of soccer and rugby, but also not—it’s hard to explain.) And yet, we are really supposed to accept with a straight face that a man who went by Smiley Hogburn was up there with the likes of Tim Tebow and Brett Favre. Smiley Hogburn? You sure? I know that Smiley is likely a nickname, but it’s the combination that feels especially goofy. Actually, maybe it’s the Hogburn. Either way, I know the series is based on a book, but it’s already taken so many liberties from the original text—not sure why changing his name couldn’t have been one of them.
That Potato Sack Race
Was that in the book? Either way, it seems like kind of a dumb, gratuitous scene, if only because potato sack races are so pedestrian that I cannot believe that this bougie wellness retreat would have it as an actual, sanctioned event. I mean, imagine paying probably thousands of dollars to be told, “Ok, now we’re going to do a game you all did in day camp when you were 7!” and not only doing it, but also being excited to do it? What’s next, the egg on a spoon race? Wheelbarrow for team building? (I mean, they did also do trust falls… so maybe this tracks.) I understand the plot device that was needed, but I feel like there could have been a number of ways to make Tony (still not over Smiley) do his touchdown dance that wouldn’t have felt so out-of-place.
Why Are Any Of Them Still There?
The biggest thing I am just not quite connecting with is, why are any of them still there at this point? I understand that this retreat is likely expensive, but sunk-cost fallacy cannot provide the entire explanation for why nobody has bailed. I would understand if Masha came across as this kind, nurturing, benevolent wellness guru that makes the characters want to stick around even while faced with some evidence to the contrary, but from the get-go, she seems extremely sketchy with a clear god complex. The first time she meets with the entire group, she straight-up admits to everyone, “This is Tranquillum. I mean to fuck with all of you.” And nobody, not a single one out of these nine, was like, “uhhh maybe I should try to GTFO of here since this is clearly not a spa and this woman is about to fuck with us”?? It comes to another head when, after the men kill an antelope, Lars says out loud, “She wanted us to be barbaric” and then addresses Masha, “didn’t you?” Masha readily admits, “I did, yes. Well played.” As a viewer, I know that these people are likely trapped in one sick woman’s twisted idea of a game disguised as a luxury retreat, but they aren’t supposed to know that. At least not yet. Right?
I mean, it was obvious from the moment they each got handed a personalized smoothie that this was no regular açai and it was clearly laced with some shit. I’m just surprised it took this long for anyone to realize it. Didn’t they feel weird at all?
Questionable plot points aside, the acting is good, the intro slaps, and I’m obviously going to watch avidly to see how this plays out — and maybe even update this list along the way.
Images: Valitutti/Hulu (3)