Nine Perfect Strangers Review Not just Crummy Timing with White Lotus this new Hulu Series is Plain Disappointing. Nine Perfect Strangers’ review: Not just crummy timing with ‘White Lotus,’ this new Hulu series is plain disappointing

It happens all the time. As with “Dante’s Peak” and “Volcano” a decade ago, you can get two lava-spewing melodramas in the same darn summer. And, ignoring every risky-overlap story component and pitfall, we have HBO’s recently concluded sensation “The White Lotus” sucking the wind out of Hulu’s “Nine Perfect Strangers,” the strangely affectless eight-part adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s gorgeous novel, which premieres Aug 18.

“The White Lotus” deserves any number of counter-arguments. A nation has been hooked by writer-director Mike White’s deft, wonderfully played dig at vexing white privilege and small hypocrisy fires everywhere. 

Minority opinion, but I believe the series, with the exception of Jennifer Coolidge, falls prey to a lot of what it needs along the way, and it’s more effective as a somewhat curdled humorous soap opera than as true societal satire.

In contrast to the merits and limitations of “Lotus,” “Nine Perfect Strangers” tastes dull and has an unclear tone. Although it takes its slow, obvious time shoving things in that way, this one ventures into thriller and supernatural territory. Masha, the ethereal director of Tranquillum House, is played by Nicole Kidman, who is unblinking and moon-pale. She and her team are hosting the title’s nine strangers, each of whom has a mysterious motive for being there and for being chosen by Masha.

Carmel (Regina Hall), whose self-improvement to-do list of weight loss, et cetera, seems to put her apart from the dreadful loads of her fellow visitors, is also on-site and ready to shed some baggage. Another married couple, this one ostensibly gorgeous and wealthy, is played by Samara Weaving and Melvin Gregg.

What is Masha’s plan for this retreat? That is the only question raised in “Nine Perfect Strangers,” and the play fails to fill it in with fascinating restatements or side angles.. The first, menacing/beautiful close-up of the smoothies being produced in the retreat’s kitchen reveals that there is some pharmacological micro-dosing going on in the blenders to all but the most cynical observer.

The tones of “Nine Perfect Strangers” go in nine different ways, sometimes even within the same episode: heartbreaking personal confessionals slam into comedic relief dream sequences.

While co-creator David E. Kelley, who worked on this with John Henry Butterworth, has gotten away with tonal zig zags before, from “Ally McBeal” on down, they aren’t helpful here. And these people’s troubles have a pre-pandemic tra-la-la feel to them.

If the direction is the tone control, as Joel Coen has stated, “Nine Perfect Strangers” has a major flaw. In contrast to what Mike White achieves within the humorous and tragic strains of “The White Lotus,” director Jonathan Levine erroneously tries a little bit of everything. Rather than casting a spell, it uses air quotes to encircle its characters.

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