Celebrating HBO miniseries ‘The Undoing’ and The Unbearable Lightness of Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman flips the burden of celebrity in HBO miniseries ‘The Undoing.’

Hugh Grant (left) and Nicole Kidman star in the HBO miniseries ‘The Undoing.’ Photo by Niko Tavernise for HBO.

COVID-19 is a phase of close quarters, hyper-connectivity, and constant need for entertainment. It’s essential to land on a TV series or online movie to alleviate everyone’s stress in your quarantine bubble.

The six-part HBO miniseries ‘The Undoing’ continues to unfold just as COVID-19 cases are shattering records, igniting feelings of anxiety, and upending traditional holiday plans. In my quarantine bubble, the luxurious adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel ‘You Should Have Known’ is a much-needed diversion from discouraging news around the pandemic.

Veteran filmmaker Susanne Bier (‘After the Wedding’) directs Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant from a David E. Kelly script. In ‘The Undoing,’ Grace (Kidman) and Jonathan Fraser (Grant) enjoy an affluent Manhattan lifestyle with their 12-year-old son Henry (Noah Jupe) and Grace’s wealthy father, Franklin Reinhardt (Donald Sutherland).

A violent crime involving a parent (Matilda De Angelis) at their son’s private school upends the Fraser household as NYPD Detective Joe Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) follows evidence back to the supposedly happy couple. Can this elegant pair be brutal killers?

Nicole Kidman flips the burden of celebrity in HBO miniseries ‘The Undoing.’ Photo by Niko Tavernise for HBO.

The critical knives are out for ‘The Undoing,’ with some entertainment pundits describing the miniseries as more focused on architectural design than family drama. Kidman is the target of exceptionally harsh reviews accusing the 53-year-old actress of playing a likeness of her glamorous self. While Grant receives praise for playing a character with unexpected gravity, Kidman earns criticism for a performance described as celebrity light.

‘The Undoing’ is a guiltless pleasure for me. So I’m happy to riff on Czech philosopher Milan Kundera and defend what I call Kidman’s unbearable lightness of stardom.

Granted, Kidman’s character, a successful therapist and socialite, shares the couture wardrobe and fashionable hairstyle we expect from Hollywood celebrities. I agree with those critics calling Kidman’s performance a riff on herself. I see this as a positive. In my opinion, Kidman’s unbearable lightness of stardom eliminates any need to play gritty.

It takes a lifetime to become a Hollywood star, or, in the case for Kidman, some thirty-one years since her breakout role in 1989’s at-sea thriller ‘Dead Calm.’ While she has played against type before in indie dramas like ‘Fur’ and ‘Dogville,’ Kidman shines when merely playing a variation of what she represents to global audiences. She’s a 21st century Lauren Bacall and a modern Ingrid Bergman. Nicole Kidman flips the burden of celebrity in ‘The Undoing,’ and the HBO miniseries is better off for it.

‘The Undoing’ is currently airing on HBO and streaming on HBO Max.

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Edgar Ramirez, Donald Sutherland, Matilda De Angelis, and Noah Jupe.

Director: Susanne Bier

Screenwriter: David E. Kelly

Producers: Blossom Films, Made Up Stories, and David E. Kelly Productions

A six-part limited series.

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