Nicole Kidman as Grace Fraser
Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser
Édgar Ramírez as Detective Joe Mendoza
Noah Jupe as Henry Fraser
Lily Rabe as Sylvia Steinetz
Matilda De Angelis as Elena Alves
Ismael Cruz Córdova as Fernando Alves
Edan Alexander as Miguel Alves
Michael Devine as Detective Paul O’Rourke
Donald Sutherland as Franklin Reinhardt
Noma Dumezweni as Haley Fitzgerald
Director: Susanne Bier
A therapist’s (Nicole Kidman) life unravels after she learns that her husband (Hugh Grant) might be responsible for a widespread disaster.
I heard about The Undoing for some time, that it’s an HBO mini-series in the murder mystery thriller genre that starred Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the lead roles. I didn’t think much of it or have a particularly strong interest in it when it was released, but after it received some TV award show nominations, I thought I might as well check it out. Having watched all the episodes, I’d say overall that it’s decent, but not nearly as good as it could’ve been.
David E. Kelley, who previously created and wrote Big Little Lies, is the writer and creator of The Undoing and you can definitely feel it. However, it’s not nearly as strong as that other show. The faults mostly lay in the writing, which is the weakest part of the show, though I wouldn’t say it’s bad. It’s decent enough and was enough for me to pay attention to what was happening. Some episodes played out on the slow side, particularly the first two, but I was never bored. This series doesn’t add anything new to the whodunit genre, nor does it do anything better, but it is alright for what it is. As to be expected in this kind of show, there are twists and turns, however I found most of them to be rather lacking in impact. There were maybe 2 twists that I didn’t expect, the rest didn’t really surprise me that much. The ending really sticks out at being very out of place. The last 10-15 minutes were tonally different and felt like they belonged in a completely different movie or show. Much of the story was already a bit far fetched, but it somehow manages to top that. It’s almost like they didn’t know how to really end the show, so they just threw in some random contrived and overblown climax which does nothing but leave the story on a very confused note.
The Undoing is 6 episodes long and on one hand that sounds alright as that’s not too long (certainly made the idea of watching the show more appealing). At the same time, given how little ground they cover with the story and characters, it does feel like it could’ve just been one feature length film. With it being a 6 hour long mini series, I just expected more from it. The characters aren’t the most interesting or have the most depth, they felt rather thinly written. Another thing to note is what the mystery is building towards, mainly what happened with the murder at the centre of the show, as well as who the killer is. While I won’t spoil anything, the reveal was rather underwhelming. There were plenty of other more unexpected directions that they could’ve taken instead. With that said, even if they were to stick with the direction that they chose (possibly to be faithful to the book), they really could’ve added stuff to that to make it more interesting than it turned out to be. That also applies to the approach to the story, as a whodunnit it’s entertaining but not really surprising or unpredictable despite how hard they try. It’s a show build on red herrings, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the show doesn’t develop those well enough to have them leave an impact or keep you guessing. Potentially it could’ve had a more of a psychological approach, in fact the show is sometimes regarded as a psychological thriller. Although it starts off seemingly like a psychological thriller, by the time it reaches the halfway point that’s not what the show is. Alternatively, it could’ve leaned more into the campiness, as at times it felt like a pulpy thriller (though it unfortunately mostly seemed to be unintentional). That would’ve at least been more entertaining. Either of those approaches could’ve made the series more interesting or more entertaining, as a whodunit though, it’s just fine.
Essentially, it’s the performances from the cast that carry this show. Nicole Kidman is in the lead role and she is really good. I do think that there are some problems with her character, it feels like there should be more to her character considering that the story is mostly told from her perspective. With that said, Nicole Kidman conveys the emotions necessary, and is quite good here. Hugh Grant is great as Kidman’s husband and a suspect in the murder at the centre of the story. Grant was his usual charming self at times, but also was a darker and more unlikable character compared to most of the role he’s known for playing. It’s the best performance I’ve seen from him, and he displays his immense range in this. Donald Sutherland is also great as Nicole Kidman’s father, he gets some moments to really shine. Noah Jupe also deserves some praise as the son of Kidman and Grant, really getting plenty of chances to stand out among the cast. Another performance worth praising is that of Noma Dumezweni as the defence lawyer for Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, she was a standout in every single scene she was in.
All 6 episodes are directed by Susanne Bier, and overall she did a good job with them. It’s good on a technical level, it is well shot and are mostly edited well. There are sometimes flashbacks from when characters imagine what happened, and I think the use of them were a little inconsistent and confusing, especially when it’s meant to be characters’ thinking about events which they haven’t seen themselves.
The Undoing does enough to entertain for 6 episodes even if it’s not anything special in the genre. However, by the end it’s pretty evident it could be much better, mainly with the writing, and it’s a little underwhelming and disappointing in parts. With that said, it interests and entertains enough, it’s well made, and the performances are great and keep you on board. If you generally like these kinds of plots, then you’ll probably at least enjoy watching it.