TV Review: Nine Perfect Strangers

I recently finished Nine Perfect Strangers on Amazon Prime Video. The eight-episode drama is based on a novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty. I think this literary origin is clearly visible in the TV series. Nine Perfect Strangers doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. It has multiple subplots and a surprise ending.

Nine Perfect Strangers is about a group of strangers who book into a wellness spa run by former corporate shark Masha Dmitrichenko.

Nicole Kidman as Masha

Nicole Kidman plays Masha. Kidman gets a lot of stick on social media, focusing on cosmetic work she’s had done on her face. After reading the comments I was prepared to dislike Kidman’s performance, but I have to say she is brilliant. I really believed in her as Masha and found no issue at all with the way she expresses emotions. Nicole Kidman continues to be a fine actor.

Kidman isn’t the only big name star in Nine Perfect Strangers. Regina Hall (the Scary Movie series), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) appear. There’s also a role for the wonderful Manny Jacinto of The Good Place.

McCarthy’s romantic storyline with Cannavale has rightly received a lot of praise on social media. Their double act lifts the mood and prevents the show from being too weighted down by the other, far less cheerful, subplots. These subplots are about characters struggling with grief, loss, guilt, anger, jealousy, failure and lack of purpose.

I guess from Masha’s point of view the spa’s most important guests must be the Marconi family. Teacher Napoleon, wife Heather and daughter Zoe are all struggling after the suicide of son Zach. How exactly Masha seeks to help the Marconis is central to her mission and the show’s resolution.

People have called Nine Perfect Strangers a criticism of the wellness industry and even a kind of horror. It’s true that Masha’s power over the guests is disturbing. What’s more disturbing is that the guests’ desperation makes them so willing to accept control. I guess one of the story’s messages is that people in need of a life raft aren’t always picky about what they climb on to.

Having said all that, I’m not really sure that Nine Perfect Strangers is a criticism of the wellness industry. I often felt that I was watching a show about the importance of emotional intelligence and of taking time to reflect. It may even be a show about spirituality.

The more I think about it, the less certain I am of what Nine Perfect Strangers intends to say. It’s very open to interpretion. That’s what makes this TV drama a lot like a literary novel.

Nine Perfect Strangers
L to R: Luke Evans, Melvin Gregg, Michael Shannon, Manny Jacinto, Bobby Cannavale

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