I trust Nicole Kidman. Ever since I was young, Nicole Kidman has consistently picked projects that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Now, I haven’t seen everything she’s been in, but everything I’ve watched with her starring (except for maybe Aquaman) is typically something I love. After she starred in the wonderful, moving film Lion a few years ago, followed by the deliciously enjoyable Big Little Lies, I realized that Nicole Kidman picks projects that she feels are genuinely special. And I’m happy to say that so far, HBO’s The Undoing seems promisingly special.
I’m going to start off by pointing out what immediately caught my attention once the episode started. The locations in this show are gorgeous. Big Little Lies was often called “real estate porn” by many people, and I think The Undoing is that as well, just in New York City instead of Monterey, California. The townhouse that Kidman and Grant’s family live in is stunningly lavish. The home has glorious red walls matched with brick and beautiful accents, it’s a wonderful place to be. The visual splendor continues in other locations, but is also present in the costume design. Kidman gets some marvelous outfits (there’s one decorated coat she wears that is jaw dropping). This is all accented by a wonderful mix of classical music that makes the show feel all the more luxurious.
Now, moving onto the cast of the show, I love the Fraser family. Kidman’s Grace is extremely human and immediately likable. She’s a therapist (and a damn good one at that) who has wit and genuine compassion for other people. She’s well matched by the very charming Hugh Grant, who makes a lovable impression from the beginning. He’s funny, tries to balance work and family, and he has terrific chemistry with Kidman. I think the relationship they display seems (emphasis on seems, I’m not quite so sure things are as perfect as they appear on the surface) very healthy and honest. I’m also impressed by the actor playing their young son, Noah Jupe. You may recognize him from A Quiet Place where he also did solid work. He seems very natural for an actor his age, and his back and forth with the actors playing his parents is delightful.
Now, all of this seems marvelous on the surface. A loving family in a lavish townhouse in New York City, supporting each other through their work and school struggles and coming home to have playful, yet honest banter at the end of the day. It’s all fun and games until we bring in the rich private school and a dark dash of mystery.
Things enter Big Little Lies territory quickly in the pilot episode. We get passive aggressive auction committees and criminal activity all wrapped in an elegant NYC package. We go from a nice little escape to a brewing sense of worry very quickly. By the end of the pilot episode, I can’t help but feel as thought the creative team behind this has lured me into liking this family and their lovely home, only for it all to be a façade. Things get dark in this posh community fast in a similar fashion to how they did on the aforementioned Lies: murder. Violent, dark, and grizzly murder.
I’m not quite sure who did it yet (though I had my eye on one character in particular) and I have very little clue on motive, but there’s definitely something sinister going on in this show. And I’m excited to see how the creative team tackles this mix of murder-mystery and escapism. Not to mention exploring themes of projection (whether it be a child projecting his desire to quit an instrument on his music teacher, or an auctioneer projecting a value of $1,000 onto a mere glass of water), isolation, and possible darkness in those around you. This show has everything a drama pilot needs to hook me in.
However, I do fear it might unfold a bit slowly for some, and also might seem to focus heavily on style over substance for many. The show has its twists and turns, but relies heavily on open-ended moments with Kidman staring off of skyscrapers or having very teasing flashbacks. That being said, if you’re into a show that seems to be a mix of Big Little Lies, Defending Jacob, and Nocturnal Animals, you’re in for quite a juicy treat. As far as the pilot episode goes, I am definitely itching to see what happens next week.