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Review of HBO Mystery Mini-Series ‘The Undoing’ starring Nicole Kidman

The Undoing
The Undoing

WE’VE just seen Nicole Kidman doing a supporting role in “The Prom” and now, we see her doing the lead role in “The Undoing”, an HBO miniseries based on the 2014 novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Korelitz. She plays Grace Fraser, a New York clinical psychologist happily married to her husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant), a pediatric oncologist.

The Undoing
The Undoing

They have an only son, Henry (Noah Jupe), who goes to an expensive school called Reardon. While attending a school meeting with other parents, she meets the beautiful Elena (Matilda de Angelis), whose son also goes to Reardon. She later meets Elena in the gym who approaches her totally naked, without being conscious at all of her full frontal nudity while Grace looks uncomfortable. She also meets Elena in a school auction but Elena leaves in a hurry. Soon, her husband also leaves to see a patient.

The following morning, Elena is discovered by her own son in her studio, brutally bludgeoned to death. It’s clearly a case of murder. Jonathan left early that morning to attend a conference in Cleveland. Grace tries to contact him and gets worried when he seems to be out of reach.

Cops then visit Grace to tell her that her husband is implicated in the killing of Elena. Jonathan has been lying to her all the time. He no longer works in the hospital as a doctor because he was fired due to his affair with the mother of a patient, who turns out to be Elena. This is the start of “The Undoing” of Grace’s seemingly perfect life.

Soon, Jonathan is arrested and becomes the prime suspect in Elena’s murder. A paternity test also showed that he is actually the real father of Elena’s baby daughter. He admits to Grace that he’s been unfaithful but tells her that he didn’t kill Elena and she’s already dead when he got to her studio.

The show is presented as a whodunit mystery. The evidence points to Jonathan as the culprit but he vehemently denies it. So the viewer is made to guess if he’s really guilty or not. Grace believes he’s innocent and asks the help of her very wealthy father (Donald Sutherland) to get the best defense lawyer for him.

No doubt, what the show’s biggest draw is the star attraction offered by the two leads, who, in all fairness, are both good in their respective roles. But like most TV miniseries today, the show overstays its welcome. It runs for 6 episodes when they can tell the whole story and all its secrets and betrayals in about half of that to make it more compact and faster paced. Here, you can feel the padding just to lengthen its running time.

The show is written by David Kelley (“Ally McBeal’, “The Practice”), who previously did “Big Little Lies” (also a whodunit mystery that was a huge success) for Nicole Kidman. Both “Lies” and “Undoing” have the same great production values, with Kidman doing a lot of walking and walking around Manhattan.

But Kelley was more successful in “Lies” as it has more intriguing characters that help sustain our interest in the show. We want to know more about the inner lives of the five women featured in it. We’re not going to say anymore what further transpires in “Undoing”, but it’s really marred by an unconvincing and very contrived ending.

Nicole Kidman at its center, though, delivers another highly nuanced portrayal as the wife who slowly discovers that her marital life has been a sham, just like in her role as Celeste, the battered wife in “Big Little Lies”, for which she won an Emmy best actress award. She’s expertly supported by Grant and Sutherland, who both have their own moments, and also by Noah Jupe as her pitifully beleaguered son.

The courtroom scenes are taut and gripping, with Norma Demezweni making quite an impression as the feisty and crafty defense lawyer, but the plot goes through some unwieldy machinations. What starts as entertaining show becomes quite disappointing. The storytelling really suffers because they have to drag it out and prolong it without being able to enrich character development.

As a result, it really fails to deliver in the end. We wish it had a more bombastic twist in its conclusion, like Grace being revealed to have a split personality and is Elena’s real secret lover. That would have been more scandalously sensational.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Mario Bautista
Former member: Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Urian)