Probably. It’s the only explanation.
When I found out Hulu was adapting Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers, I was ecstatic. I immediately text all five of my friends to let them know. I am what you would call a Liane Moriarty Fan. Fan with a capital F. Fan as in I was going to get her portrait tattooed on my bicep, but my arms are kinda small, and I’m afraid some of the details would be lost. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I actually watched the show. Maybe it’s good if you hadn’t read the book? There’s sure nothing wrong with the cast: Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Manny Jacinto, Michael Shannon – I’m a huge fan of Michael Shannon. He was gonna go on the other bicep but, alas, small arms. So, yeah, the cast is phenomenal; too bad their talents are wasted.
So, Nine Perfect Strangers is supposed to be about a group of nine people – most of them strangers to one another – going to a health retreat. We have a grieving family, a struggling romance writer, a former professional athlete. We have contraband liquor and chocolate. We have Masha. The woman behind it all. Book Masha was an overweight workaholic who had a massive heart attack, was saved, and became a health nut. Throughout the book, we learn more about her, making her complete spiral near the end all the more meaningful/enjoyable. Look, I wanted nothing more than to see Nicole Kidman in a three-sizes-too-big business suit from the ’80s sitting behind a desk chain smoking and shoving Doritos and salsa into her mouth with a passed out Manny Jacinto just visible in the background. Is that too much to ask, Hulu? Is it? I guess so because that is far from what we got. But, you know, use your imagination and just think about how amazing it could have been.
Instead we get folks who find out Masha is dosing them with small amounts of hallucinogenics far too early (episode three, I think. I mean, they didn’t even have time to not build a human pyramid or think they were being burned alive. How are you supposed to grow as a person if you aren’t pushed to your limits by a woman who is borderline insane?) and they have the way wrong reaction. They’re super in to it. Michael Shannon murders a goat for no reason, there are ghosts walking around, there’s a potato sack race. It’s just a whole lot of stuff happening instead of the hilarious/touching stuff that should be happening. The adaptation feels directionless, and it sucks because Moriarty GAVE them the direction they needed to go in.
I have a hard time with adaptations when they take a perfectly good plot and wonderful, complex characters and totally screw it up. This may be one of the worst adaptations I’ve ever seen – and I’ve watched the sixth Harry Potter movie. It’s abysmal, but even it might be better than Nine Perfect Strangers. If I had to say anything nice it would be this: the setting is beautiful. I would not be mad about it if I had to live there. Melissa McCarthy’s Francis was the appropriate amount of diva. She was everything I imagine full time romance writers to be. Oh, we’re going swimming? Let me slip into my floral wetsuit and just finish it off with some bangles and a red lip. No big deal. She was pretty perfect.
AND THAT’S WHY IT’S SUCH A BUMMER. The cast really could not have been better. The setting looked exactly how it was supposed to look; they just butchered the plot and did a major disservice to the characters.
I would say that, if you’re interested in Nine Perfect Strangers, read the book instead. If you’re interested in watching something on Hulu, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Reservation Dogs – more on that later – or Only Murders in the Building. Like, we’re gonna have to thumb wrestle or something to see who gets to review that one. It’s so good.
And then watch this one.
Okay, one diss and two recommendations. That’s all I’ve got.