This mini-series based on Australian author Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name can now be seen on Amazon Prime Video. As the title suggests, nine perfect strangers with reasons of their own come to Tranquillum House, a fabulously upscale wellness retreat that promises its patrons “total transformation”.
The guest list includes Napolean Marconi (Michael Shannon), a high school teacher with his wife Heather (Asher Keddie) and daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten), Francis (Melissa McCarthy), an author, Jessica (Samara Weaving), a social media influencer, and Ben (Melvin Gregg), her husband who drives a Lamborghini, Tony (Bobby Cannavale) a football star past his prime, Lars (Luke Evans) and Carmel (Regina Hall), a woman who has anger issues.
The Wellness Centre is helmed by Masha (Nicole Kidman), who conveys a mystical aura with a white ghostly mane. She is ably assisted by a team that includes Delilah (Tiffany Boone), Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Sam.
The strangers are excited about their stay at the wellness retreat, but at the same time they are sceptical about the place and Masha. Most of them think that the place is just another construct to separate rich people from their money and get them to feel good about themselves in the process, and they see Masha as “an amazing eastern bloc unicorn”.
During the course of their stay we realise that each of the characters carries a burden or a wound that stresses them out, and they are told, “Part of the healing is finding the wound.”
It is only later they realise that their stay is not all “fun”, when, with a hard gaze that breaks into a smirk, Masha tells Heather, “I mean to f*** with all of you.” It is not so literally, but definitely in a metamorphic manner.
That’s when you realise the Masha, who is projecting a serene, reclusive and mysterious persona in charge of healing her guests, has a sinister disposition bubbling beneath her serene surface.
The episodes in this series with its languid pacing start off with a promise but soon hit a bumpy path that drag the viewing experience. The banter back and forth between on-the-nerve rivals is interesting. It’s literally murderous, much like the fruits being whipped in the mixer, which is used as a metaphor in the series.
The series boasts of good production values. Yves Belanger’s cinematography is worth mentioning. His frames are spectacular as they capture the beautiful locales as well as the actors in all their elements, incredibly.
The star-studded ensemble, despite delivering a brilliant performance to each of the well-etched characters they play, never appear fulfilling. That is because the screenplay, although straightforward, snips just when you are connecting to them. Overall, this series would appeal to those who are on a soul-searching trip.
Web Series: Nine Perfect Strangers – Season 1; 3 episodes (43-50 minutes per episode)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: 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
–By Troy Ribeiro