If you are privy to information about a friend that is going to upset them, do you tell them or save them from heartache?
That’s the core question of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business, Seven’s new 6 part miniseries based on a play by Elizabeth Coleman.
What was previously a successful light comedy is now a dark thriller, by writers Andrew Anastasios and David Hannam, together with a reworked story by Coleman.
A trio of women are at the centre of this universe, photogenically filmed on the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne.
Rising winemaker Olivia (Georgina Haig) is recovering from leukemia when boyfriend Alex (Oliver Ackland) proposes. It’s an occasion shared with family and close friends hairstylist and mother of 2 Melanie (Abbie Cornish) and stylish lawyer Saskia (Katie McGrath), both instantly chosen as bridesmaids.
It’s all smiles despite the fact Melanie is having an affair with hunky real estate agent Jakob (Alexander England) behind her husband’s (Dan Spielman) back, while Saskia is suppressing her own desires for Olivia. Secrets everywhere it seems….
After this neat and sometimes sexy set-up, the plot proceeds headlong down two paths: Saskia discovers Olivia’s fiancé has had his own affair.
“Who’s going to tell her? You or me?” Saskia asks Alex.
Meanwhile Melanie tries to break off her own infidelity with Jakob. But Jakob doesn’t take no for an answer and begins to stalk her family.
Amid a lot of red wine and inviting autumn hues a winter chill is settling in on this trio and one gets the impression it could turn positively bunny-boiler (yep, we’re far removed from the play by now, not that there’s anything wrong with that).
The principals all deliver in this dark and twisted romance, with Katie McGrath’s determination driving a wedge through the innocence of Georgina Haig and desperation of Abbie Cornish. It’s Alexander England who has the most fun, smiling while losing his shit as the spurned lover.
Annie Jones is a standout as Olivia’s mother and the supporting cast features Nicholas Bell, Diana Glenn and Emily Taheny.
This is clearly pitched at women, and in some respects aspires to British romance thrillers. Indeed, there are several females in key creative roles including MaryAnne Carroll as Executive Producer / Producer, Amanda Crittenden as Series Producer, and Directors Tori Garrett & Jennifer Perrott.
Director of Photography Tristan Milani ACS and Production Designer Ben Bangay certainly make the most of the Mornington Peninsula backdrop, in aerial shots and winery postcard locations.
The pacing is a little uneven, sex scenes are oddly robed and it would benefit from more levity, but it gets better the more melodramatic it becomes. Bad Mothers tried to navigate similar terrain but Secret Bridesmaids’ Business pulls it off more successfully.
This is an encouraging, if sometimes twisted step from Seven Studios.
Secret Bridesmaids’ Business airs 9pm Sunday September 29 and continues Monday & Tuesday.