Hulu’s new miniseries takes the wellness industry to creepily absurd extremes
The promise of healing and transformation at an upscale health and wellness resort takes an ominous turn in Hulu’s eight-part drama “Nine Perfect Strangers.”
The series, which premieres Wednesday with three episodes, follows a group of emotionally battered guests into a 10-day reinvigoration process at the exclusive Tranquillum House in the California wilds, tracking their “progress” as they succumb to the unorthodox “protocols” of the boutique spa’s mysterious director, Masha (Nicole Kidman).
Wholeness and well-being are a spooky pursuit in this hour-long series, based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller of the same name, where the guests’ tortured pasts collide with Masha’s murky intentions. In turn, she’s being threatened by an anonymous stalker, whether because of her dangerous methodology or her past life as a high-powered business executive, both revealed in fragmented flashbacks.
The Times TV team chats about the finale of HBO’s satire, set at a luxury resort in the tropics — including a death that will go down in HBO history.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” joins two other recent series that warn against the perils of getting away from it all: Fox’s sequel to the 1970s-1980s favorite “Fantasy Island,” with Roselyn Sánchez taking on Ricardo Montalbán’s role as the enigmatic (Ms.) Roarke, and HBO’s “The White Lotus,” which satirizes the guests at a high-end Hawaiian resort.
But the Hulu miniseries, which David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “The Undoing”) adds to his list of luxuriously appointed mysteries starring Kidman, takes its unwitting visitors on a more metaphysical ride than its predecessors, which is equal parts intriguing and frustrating.
What exactly is in the morning smoothies served to the guests, and why are resort staffers drawing their blood upon arrival? And who is Masha behind the flowing gowns and icy blond Rapunzel locks? As one of the participants handpicked for the “transformative journey,” Frances, a lonely romance novelist portrayed with humor and depth by Melissa McCarthy, refers to the guru as an “amazing mystical Eastern Bloc unicorn.”
Since “Big Little Lies,” the Oscar winner has brought prestige to a medium eager for it — and inspired a wave of stories about affluent women on the verge.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” also stars Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie and Grace Van Patten as the grieving Marconi family; Bobby Cannavale as a broken soul struggling with addiction issues; Regina Hall as a devastated divorced woman; Samara Weaving and Melvin Gregg as a couple who’ve lost their spark; and Luke Evans as a journalist who keeps his cards very close to his vest. Tiffany Boone and Manny Jacinto play the two most prominent members of the resort’s seemingly Zen but ultimately conflicted staff. Jonathan Levine directs all eight episodes.
Each guest reveals secrets along the way that ultimately affect the group and change the course of their quest for wholeness. “Nine Perfect Strangers” takes the wellness industry to creepily absurd extremes as it keeps you guessing — and vowing never to trust a fruity health drink again.
‘Nine Perfect Strangers’
When: Any time
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under age 17)
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