D.he feel-good moment in “The Undoing” is over quickly. A lovely curly child, dipped in delicate pastel colors, plays in slow motion with a soap bubble. Nicole Kidman, the main actress of the six-part HBO / Sky series, sings very gently with a little girl’s voice “Dream a Little Dream of Me”. Then the soap bubble bursts. The beautiful world of Grace Sachs played by Kidman is about to fall apart.
A colored child finds his mother in a demolished basement studio in Harlem, and that’s how it starts. Beat the skull to a pulp with his own sculptor’s hammer. Then a hard cut, into the lives of Jonathan and Grace Sachs, who live in the rich people idyll of Uptown New York.
The twelve-year-old son Henry plays the violin and goes to private school, the father is a self-sacrificing child oncologist from England, Grace is a psychiatrist. One afternoon at a fundraising meeting, she meets the young Latina Elena, whose son is at school with one of those scholarships for which they are now collecting charity money.
But the features of most of the salon mothers’ features are not very subliminal conceit and racism. Only Grace seems to have something like empathy for the young mother.
But this moment doesn’t last too long. Because a little later – “The Undoing” in German means somewhat awkwardly “To destroy” – Elena lies murdered in her blood. She’s the dead body in Harlem. And Jonathan Sachs is the prime suspect. He had a relationship with Elena. And a baby with her.
Donald Sutherland purses his lips
Not much happens then in this miniseries, it’s all about whether Jonathan is guilty. Strangely enough, that doesn’t matter.
Because the Danish Oscar winner Susanne Bier leads all the actors of “The Undoing” fabulously. Kidman as an actionist Grace who is losing control of her apparently secure framework. The 85-year-old Donald Sutherland as a nobly bitter, super rich father with a sardonically pointed lip.
Hugh Grant is – relentlessly old and gray – Jonathan who tries to obtain absolution from Hugh Grant grimaces that ask for forgiveness. And there is Noah Lupe as Henry, in whose wounded, sad eyes you can read how he wakes up from his ideal world bubble and just wants his old life back.
But what life? He cannot mean this well-protected existence of the rich, apparently perfectly shielded between Bach preludes, Vivaldi concerts and antiques. They are left alone with their big little lies. Every man for himself.
Nicole Kidman is perfect for Grace, this controlled Teflon painter in her privileged elite bubble, of whom one does not know how much of each stroke of fate she really achieves in her painstakingly tamed anger. Stately, aloof, apparently graceful, but in reality tough, indestructible, an upper-class magnolia made of steel.
Shrill, diverse, candybunt
But it can also be different. The stupid but smart blonde, for example. Like recently in “Bombshell”, the MeToo drama about the misogynistic Fox News. And as from December 11th on Netflix in Ryan Murphy’s usual garish, stylish and exuberant Christmas fun “The Prom”. In the sullen, cheerful film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name between “Grease” and “Glee”, she is Angie, the chewing gum eternal chorus line dancer with an alcohol problem.
She wants – with three other entertainment colleagues who failed in the tough New York entertainment industry – as a PR challenge to stir up a high school in Indiana. Because the one lesbian schoolgirl didn’t want to go to prom night with her girlfriend. That is shrill, flatly diverse and candybunt.
Nicole Kidman leaves the front row to Meryl Streep, who is terribly disinhibited as the egocentric musical siren Dee Dee without a fight. But she has her moment when she tells, sings and dances that you have to have “Zazz” in life in order to survive.
And Nicole Kidman, she has Zazz – in every game situation, whether serious or self-deprecating, ice cold or warm-hearted, blonde or red-haired, as an enigmatic Boticelli angel or as an aged Broadway baby.