And so, one of the most highly-anticipated TV series of the year (because it's bursting with such star quality, and it looks a bit off it's rocker) is finally here. But, is it worth the watch? Yes and no.
Welcome to Tranquillum. Please meet Masha Dmitrichenko (Nicole Kidman), who is the leader and founder of this wellness resort. Our aim is that by the time you leave here next week, you will be feeling lighter, more grounded, and more in tune with yourself. Oh, and we're going to slip you a li'l somethin' somethin' to help you along the way. 'Nine Perfect Strangers' sees a group of troubled, predominantly white, people embark on a wellness journey that has cost them an unspeakable about of money (except for the Marconi family, who were able to bag themselves a discount).
There has been a lot of buzz around the series, in part because it is based on the novel by Liane Moriarty (the same author of 'Big Little Lies', which has been turned into a HBO series, also starring Kidman). But it's the star quality that has boosted the profile of the series substantially, and also the head-scratching nature of the teaser videos we've seen thus far.
Had the series not been so wonderfully acted, the rating of the show would be much harsher; it's the cast that saves you from watching one episode and calling it quits. As the season progresses, we get to know why each of the guests has forked out for Tranquillum, leaving plenty of room for character growth during the slow-burning series. Melissa McCarthy as Frances, a troubled author with an idiotic romantic life, is the perfect yin to the yang of Bobby Cannavale's abrasive character Tony, who all of the guests recognise but can't quite place. This pairing is the stand-out of the series, with their total disregard of the other.
We have Luke Evans, who plays Lars, a guarded man who really doesn't believe this retreat will do him any wonders; however, he sets up a connection with the youngest on the screen, Zoe, played by Grace Van Patten. Zoe is part of the Marconi family (the ones who got the discount), whose parents Napoleon (who loves talking about said discount) and Heather are played by Michael Shannon and Asher Keddie. Samara Weaving and Melvin Gregg play Jessica and Ben, a young couple who believe this break from the outside world will save their marriage; and finally, they're all joined by an unrecognisable Regina Hall as a woman who - on the surface - wants to please everyone, Carmel.
And finally, we have the staff of the retreat who make sure their guests don't wander off too far, Manny Jacinto as Yao and Tiffany Boone as Delilah. While we get to know our 'Nine Perfect Strangers' a little better at the beginning of the series, the perspective eventually shifts onto Nicole Kidman's Russian wellness expert. We learn about Masha's troubled past, which seems to be building to a crescendo for the series finale. Having only been given access to the first six episodes, we'll have to presume that the biggest chunk of the drama has been left for the final two episodes.
Which is unfortunate. Waiting for something big to happen - and not really getting much of a payoff, even from the standard activities that the guests get up to - is how this reviewer felt while watching 'Nine Perfect Strangers'. A spiritual journey that is brilliantly acted, it doesn't make up for the lack of twists and turns we were expecting to find here. The "weirdness" factor has been set at a lukewarm five out of 10, and we were hoping for so much more.
'Nine Perfect Strangers' begins on Amazon Prime on Friday, August 20. Episodes will be released on a weekly basis.