With Nicole Kidman, for example, a whole cosmos of human emotions opens up as soon as the camera is running, with which any film format could be filled, and honestly: Susanne Bier’s HBO series “The Undoing” is not far from this approach. As soon as her main character is in the picture, the Danish director zooms in on Kidman’s blue eyes and lets the audience sink into them. Finally, David E. Kelley’s series based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel “You could have known it” on Sky offers all the ups and downs of emotional dives (“The Undoing”, Sky, six episodes, in double episodes on Mondays).
As a couples therapist Grace, Kidman starts the day as he does every day in total harmony with pediatrician Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant) and smiles blissfully. No wonder: both are too beautiful, successful, and cool to be true. Her house on the posh Upper East Side reveals the casual luxury of the New York money aristocracy. Problems exhaust themselves in the exclamation “Shit, my violin”, which the good Henry (Noah Jupe) looks for before going to private school.
With so much luck, your eyes flutter when the enigmatic Elena breastfeeds her baby while doing charity work and later announces naked in front of Grace in the fitness club that she wants to be part of her bubble of cultured women with great jobs, great kids, great morals.
No reason to look bitter – until the Frasers’ paradise implodes. Because shortly after their peers at a charity auction for poor scholarship recipients cheerfully raise $ 50,000 in tuition by amounts on which the penniless Elena could live for months, she is brutally murdered. Worse: Jonathan does not return home from a convention and remains unreachable.
As if Grant’s repertoire had always consisted of court tragedies
Worse still, this congress is just as fictitious as his morning walk to the hospital, which he quit months earlier for sexually harassing the woman who soon turns out to be Elena.
Just as Kidman’s Grace now has to recognize lie after lie of her first missing and then accused husband, Bier’s camera moves the eyes of the duped so microscopically close to the irises until a purgatory of emotions is reflected in them. And hardly anyone could illustrate it more believably than she.
While “The Undoing” grows from the moral painting of urban elites to modern family drama and thriller noir in the thunderstorm of flashlights in sensational media, the winner of countless film awards turns it into an American psychogram that takes your breath away when you watch it in nervous silence.
Especially since she has assistance, exquisite assistance. Her obscenely wealthy father embodies none other than Donald Sutherland, whose malicious snobbery becomes even more subtle at 85. Édgar Ramírez, celebrated as fashion designer Gianni Versace in 2018, gives Detective Joe Mendoza terrific skeptical energy.
Lily Rabe (“American Horror Story”) plays soccer mum Sophie as if she lived privately in the gated community. And for Hugh Grant, “The Undoing” is the coming out as an artist with more than two facial expressions.
His main suspect Jonathan looks at others from below, similarly obliquely as the lovable Hallodris of earlier years – but there is a despair of such plausible sadness as if Grant’s repertoire had always consisted of court tragedies.
But: Even with that, he can’t steal the show from Nicole Kidman. Because almost no one in the epicenter of cultural earthquakes could be shaken more upright and still spread indomitable pride than the ageless woman in her mid-fifties.
Over the mild opening credits she sings angelically “Dream a Little Dream of Me” until a soap bubble bursts like the seemingly perfect world of Grace & Jonathan. In episode two, the camera zooms in on her panicked and at the same time combative eye in the face of the approaching catastrophe. That alone would be enough for an extraordinary series experience. But it doesn’t have to be.