The interesting thing about past and today’s TV series is that they are getting shorter. If we go back in time, let’s say twenty years ago we’ll see that the TV series had from eight to twelve seasons, each season had 24 episodes on average (not to mention that they aired one episode per week), then a few years ago they started making up to 4 seasons per series with 10 episodes each, and today we have mini-series with 7 episodes each. We can see how much our patience has decreased over the years.
Now I want to go back in 2017, when the well-known series “Big Little Lies” came out with an excellent group of actors (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard etc) and was praised, awarded and talk about for a long time. I mention this series to capture that moment of repetition (if it was successful the first time it will be successful again, or so they thought).
As you start the new HBO series “The Undoing” (where we have Nicole Kidman as the leading actress again) you will immediately notice the same pattern from the aforementioned 2017 series. Rich friends, an unknown girl (Elena Alves) who does not belong in those society circles, they all have children in the same prestigious school, then we have a fundraiser event for the school and… (drumrolls please) murder. As the story unfolds itself you will notice that, for a moment, they gently (and very clumsily) take the main story from Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” where each of the main characters could be the killer, but due to the uncreative writing of the screenwriters you will hardly doubt in someone other than the one they discover from the beginning. Lots of plot holes and ambiguities, poorly developed characters, hasty trial, repetition of scenes, wasting time with unimportant things etc. I would say it’s a real pity not to use all the acting potential that you have gathered.
Now I’ll try to save it. If we ignore all of the above and choose to watch the series as the main title suggests, it may seem better. If you pay attention you will notice a little red-haired girl (little Grace Fraser) laughing, playing, dancing, protected from the secrets of her family and completely unaware of all the evil in the world, when suddenly blood starts pouring on the walls and the little balloons (her illusions) around her burst. That is the main story of the series, suddenly Grace’s world completely collapses when she finds out that every person in her life hides a secret from her. From the secrets of her husband, to the lies of her father who tells her that he was never happy with her mother and that he constantly cheated on her, to her best friend who hides that she knew about her husband (Jonathan Frasier) work notice, to her rich “friends” which immediately abandon her after the scandal, to her son who hid that he knew about his father’s affair. Grace is a psychiatrist but is completely unaware of the people around her, which is an additional blow for her, that’s why she fainted in the park. The rest of the story is her processing period, then confronting with all the secrets and lies and, of course, the final acceptance of all that she knew from the beginning.
If you watch the series this way, it is more bearable.
I must mention that Donald Sutherland was definitely the highlight of the series, (oh that monologue in the school director’s office) it is always a pleasure to watch this man, and to hear that amazing voice. The same praise goes for Hugh Grant who really surprised me in the last episode, completely came out of that eternal role of a clumsy and naive Englishman that he has in all his movies and for a moment turned into a monster with a psychopathic look and completely channeled his dark side that deformed his face. It is definitely true when they say that comedy actors are the best villains.
Bottom line, if you do not have something better to watch, this one will do.
For Camera Obscura,