REVIEW: ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Season 1 is More Nah Than Namaste

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Nine Perfect Strangers

In Nine Perfect Strangers, a group of skeptics and lost souls find themselves at the threshold of Tranquillum House, a secluded wellness retreat. Each of the nine participants is running from something – inner demons and external struggles – and throws themselves at the mercy of Masha, the mysterious wellness guru, and her secretive methods. With each passing day, layers of secrets and inhibitions are stripped away – but the healing can hurt. How far is too far?

Nine Perfect Strangers stars Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten, Tiffany Boone, and Manny Jacinto. The series is an adaptation of the New York Times bestselling book by Liane Moriarty.

Just like the enigmatic Tranquillum House, Nine Perfect Strangers is deceptive in appearance. Hopes for the series were high, looking to the source material and the immense talent of this ensemble. However, these lofty expectations begin to unravel at the edges as we venture deeper into the series. While the cast met – and in some cases exceeded – expectations, it felt like watching a really effective acting workshop versus a compelling drama. Up close, when wrapped up in the performances of the cast, Nine Perfect Strangers has an undeniable allure. However, once you step back and take in the show as a whole the shiny lacquer of the series begins to tarnish.

The nine strangers of Nine Perfect Strangers are the connective tissues that hold the series together. Each of these characters is complex and equal parts sympathetic and sinister. The series dedicates an almost excessive amount of time to unpacking the guests and revealing their baggage. The most care in terms of writing and performances is spent in this area. While of the nine there are no weak links, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Melissa McCarthy, and Michael Shannon turn out particularly impressive performances.

Regrettably, once your gaze turns from the intimate dramas of these fascinating characters Nine Perfect Strangers has nothing left to give. Style definitely trumps substance in most cases, but what the series is really lacking is structure. For the first few episodes, it’s possible to willingly submit yourself to the strange storyline. It’s easy to be content with secrets and shadows when there is a promise of answers, but that never comes. The staff members of Tranquillum House have an artificial quality that comes off as a mystery at first blush. However, these characters, their stories, and motivations, do not get the same mindful treatment as the nine strangers and what’s left is a gaping hole where the audience knows something should be.

It’s easy to grasp the thesis statement of Nine Perfect Strangers and that what we’re intended to watch is the cracking of a façade. It’s a subversion of the wellness industry, a story about coping, and a criticism of masking pain with perfection. Unfortunately, the series we get feels nebulous and unresolved. All of these episodes of carefully unwrapping the secrets of Tranquillum House and its inhabitants feel like an impossibly tense buildup that finishes in a fizzle. Ultimately, the show has a pacing problem that takes it from a slow burn to a dirge. All of those lofty ideas float off into nothingness, so how much-weighted credit can we give them?

As an actor’s piece, Nine Perfect Strangers has a lot to offer with amazing performances from a perfectly stacked cast. I’d watch these characters all day under the simplicity of a spotlight and a monologue, free from the pretentious packaging. It’s a shame that the show seems to get hit with a tranquilizer dart after the first couple of episodes, bringing down the whole story to a dragging pace and an unfocused haze.

Nine Perfect Strangers will premiere with the first three episodes on Hulu on Wednesday, August 18 with new episodes to stream weekly.

 

Nine Perfect Strangers
  • 4/10
    Rating - 4/10
4/10

TL;DR

As an actor’s piece, Nine Perfect Strangers has a lot to offer with amazing performances from a perfectly stacked cast. I’d watch these characters all day under the simplicity of a spotlight and a monologue, free from the pretentious packaging. It’s a shame that the show seems to get hit with a tranquilizer dart after the first couple of episodes, bringing down the whole story to a dragging pace and an unfocused haze.