The guests assemble and in walks Kidman as the retreat’s guru, Masha. This should be the moment that the show takes flight. Instead, Kidman sinks it.
She has a cod Russian accent and Daryl Hannah’s haircut from Splash. For a while in episode two I genuinely wondered if the big reveal would be that Masha is an alien, but then figured it had only popped into my head because Kidman’s facial features now have an extra-terrestrial quality.
Masha is supposed to have a mesmeric hold over her clients, inducing them to drop their inhibitions and spill their innermost thoughts. But there is no sensible reason why this savvy bunch would fall for her claptrap from the word go (the plot later comes up with a reason, which is related to fruit smoothies, but that’s as daft as it sounds). Perhaps Moriarty is trying to make the point that wealthy Westerners are too suggestible when it comes to this kind of thing, but if that’s the case then the show doesn’t make it strongly enough. Occasionally there are flashes of humour that suggest this could have been a smart satire on the wellness industry, as when a staffer quotes Maya Angelou after a guest face-plants into their organic oatmeal while high on hallucinogens. But there isn’t enough of it.
Is Masha a fake? That would be the obvious plot development, but the drama seems to abandon any attempt to find out. Worst of all are the flashbacks to Masha’s previous life as a corporate CEO. If you’ve ever seen the “alternative reality” episode of Friends in which Phoebe was an insanely workaholic stockbroker, then this will be familiar.
It could all have been so much better. The ensemble cast is great – McCarthy and Cannavale are perfect sparring partners, Weaving is comedy gold and Shannon’s performance belongs in a show better than this one.
But in episode two, nothing happens, and the show carries on this way. Only six of the eight episodes were made available for review, so perhaps the last two are a triumph. By that point, though, you’ll most likely have checked out.
Nine Perfect Strangers is available on Amazon Prime from today