Nicole Kidman, writer David E. Kelley and producer Bruna Papandrea, all of whom combined for Big Little Lies, have regrouped for the new miniseries The Undoing.
But can they recapture the magic?
This is the overriding question in my mind as I watch the 6 part series based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel You Should Have Known.
There are several similarities: a major crime, a group of affluent moms gossiping at school drop-off, a marriage disintegrating, and blurred lines around what did or didn’t happen. The key differences are it is far more personal than ensemble and the action takes place in the well-heeled neighbourhoods of New York City.
Therapist Grace (Kidman) and her respected doctor / husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) live a cushy life with son Henry (Noah Jupe) but it will all come asunder in the first episode leaving their marriage hanging by a thread.
While mother & son try to cling to normality, Grace’s wealthy father Franklin (Donald Sutherland) offers 1 part counsel and 2 parts cynicism, while best friend and lawyer Sylvia (Lily Rabe) extends Grace legal advice.
Interrogating the case at the centre of it all is Detective Joe Mendoza (Edgar Ramírez) and subsequent trial scenes will introduce Sofie Gråbøl and Noma Dumezweni.
But 19 minutes into this and people’s reactions all just a little too incredulous (it’s a locker room scene, you’ll know it when you see it)… followed by another not long after involving the same two characters.
It’s these small moments from director Susanne Bier that leave this falling short of Big Little Lies, nor does it help that a number of key characters are cold snobs whose privileged lives are in turmoil. I also struggled with the use of the son as a sounding board for the troubled Grace, in what might have been more believable between adult characters.
Yet I do acknowledge that Kelley writes to effective twists and cliffhangers each episode, enough to lure me back when I feel like I am done.
If you’re not a Kidman fan there’s very little on offer here… Hugh Grant and Sutherland get a little more in later episodes, and not enough from Edgar Ramírez.
This might have been quite satisfying to pass the time as your next 2hr. in-flight movie but outstays its welcome too soon.
Just as Little Fires Everywhere is not quite Reese Witherspoon recapturing Big Little Lies, neither does The Undoing quite serve the same for Nicole.
The Undoing airs 12pm Monday on FOX Showcase / Binge.