Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman play a couple in free-fall in HBO’s The Undoing
HBO once again marries superstar Nicole Kidman to David E Kelley for what is currently a thrilling and dramatic miniseries of six episodes. Following the success of Big Little Lies and its subsequent second season, The Undoing could well follow the same path.
Kidman, aged 53 in real life and in possession of the most flawless skin, smooth as that of a woman half her age, plays Grace Fraser. A cosmopolitan and affluent resident of New York, she is married to Dr Jonathan Fraser, a renowned paediatric cancer specialist, played by Hugh Grant (who evidently couldn’t afford to strike the same eternal-youth deal with the devil/best plastic surgeons). This apparently perfect power couple have a son, Henry (Noah Jupe).
The tale begins innocently enough with a fundraising committee meeting of rich wrong-side-of-40 yummy mummies, to which one apparent outsider is invited. Elena Alves (Matilda de Angelis) is about half Kidman’s age and utterly exquisite. She ruffles the well-groomed feathers of the other women but inspires kindness and understanding in Grace – who is a psychotherapist – especially when she whips out her perfectly perky young breast to feed her infant.
Further encounters between Grace and Elena cause some discomfort (with a distinct lack of boundaries or modesty), and Jonathan appears intrigued by the presence of this woman in his wife’s life.
It’s not a spoiler to reveal a gruesome murder takes place, because this is the scene with which The Undoing opens. The following six hours serve to build tension, offer suspects and theories, expose deeply rooted lies and untruths, and hit the viewer with twist after twist – during the episodes as well as in the explosive cliffhanger before the end credits of each one roll.
Having concluded its airing on HBO on 29 November, it kept the nail biting pressure firmly applied throughout. South African viewers will endure the same fate as weekly episodes run on DStv and Showmax.
HBO shared five of the episodes with media but withheld the sixth. At this point, you, me, anyone can go online and find out what happened in the finale, and believe me, it’s tempting; after the first two I was already incandescent with frustration that I’d have to wait for that last juicy titbit.
In episode five, there is a fairly predictable moment when it seems as if the murderer’s identity had been confirmed, but it was delivered with such a heavy hand I cannot accept nor believe this will turn out to be the case. Especially since The Daily Mail says the final revelation has left viewers reeling. Read the review at your own peril (contains spoilers). Whether that ending is satisfying or not is irrelevant.
The Undoing is taught and tense, and well worth holding onto for a December holiday binge.
With a cast led by Kidman and Grant, with the unparalleled Donald Sutherland as Grace’s father, the level of acting talent in this show is beyond reproach. The Undoing is taught and tense, and well worth holding onto for a December holiday binge.
“Director Susanne Bier (The Night Manager, After The Wedding) and writer David E Kelley both specialise in these portraits of well-to-do couples in carefully concealed free-fall, but it’s the casting that elevates The Undoing above the next glossy psychological thriller. The mystery hinges on the extent to which we read Grant’s characteristic mannerism – that pursed half-smile and downward glance – as adorably bashful or inherently deceptive. Don’t you, like Grace, desperately want to believe that while Jonathan might be a bit of a bounder he is essentially a decent guy? Grant’s shifty demeanour makes for such a perfectly combustible match with Kidman’s brittle elegance that it is a surprise they haven’t been paired together before,” says The Guardian.