Rich people suffer beautifully in The Undoing, HBO's latest thriller: Review
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant star as New York City socialites coping with murder and marriage troubles in the HBO miniseries.
- TV Show
Why eat the rich when it’s so much more fun to watch them suffer? As the latest entry in HBO’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Miserable genre, The Undoing is a starry saga blending murder, marriage, and luxurious Manhattan townhouses. Though the story feels familiar, the miniseries — written by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier — delivers enough twists, suspense and sumptuous style to pull the viewer along to the end.
The Fraser family are New York elite: Jonathan (Hugh Grant) is a revered pediatric oncologist; his wife Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a therapist who spends her downtime planning fundraising galas for the fancy private school their son Henry (Noah Jupe) attends. Grace and Jonathan have a healthy sex life and a gorgeous Upper East Side duplex; the idea of family discord is limited to refusing Henry’s repeated requests for a dog. Then one morning, a mother from Henry’s school is found dead, and Jonathan suddenly goes missing for several days. Things only get worse for Grace: She can zero in on her patients’ relationship troubles with a clinician’s calm precision, but does she really know her own husband? (Predictable spoiler: She doesn’t.)
Adapted from the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Undoing (premiering Oct. 25 at 9 p.m.) packs an impressive amount of story into the first two episodes before things start to meander a bit… much like Jonathan and Grace, who continue to take leisurely daytime strolls along the East River promenade, even after he becomes the most famous murder suspect on the planet. This is the type of drama where characters soothe their troubled souls by playing classical piano in their spacious penthouse parlors, and Bier is fond of shooting Grace looking out of or being observed through windows, perhaps to emphasize the dangerous limits of her worldview.
Kidman is typically luminous as Grace, a preternaturally perfect one-percenter brought low; and it’s a treat to watch a grizzled Grant, handsome as ever, play true (not foppishly charming) desperation. Donald Sutherland is impeccably frosty as Franklin, Grace’s absurdly wealthy father and a self-described “c---sucker.” (Sutherland, God love him, savors the word like foie gras melting on his tongue.) Edgar Ramírez is superb and ominous as Detective Mendoza; both he and Lily Rabe, a standout as Grace’s brisk, compassionate lawyer friend, are sadly underused.
But The Undoing is beautiful — the people, the locations, the coats! — and we’re all apt to cut beautiful things a little slack. Through all of the misdirects, the characters’ dumb decisions, the dreamy detours, The Undoing kept me guessing — and, of course, gloating over everyone’s misfortune. Grade: B
The Undoing premieres Oct. 25 at 9 p.m. on HBO.