Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant may have been the headliners but the real star of The Undoing was Noma Dumezweni saying the word ‘muck’
“People hire me to create muck”
Created by David E Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier for HBO Max, The Undoing was sold on its prestige merits but in the end, proved to be watchable hokum. And heaven knows in these times, that was what we kinda needed. Traditional scheduling of one episode a week heightened the buzz with some good old-fashioning theorising going on between episodes and if it didn’t quite live up to expectations in the end, well we’ve only ourselves to blame.
Set up as a whodunnit in the higher echelons of Manhattan society, we followed Nicole Kidman’s Grace and Hugh Grant’s Jonathan as their gilded lives are torn asunder when he is arrested for the murder of Matilda De Angelis’ Elena, who we soon find out is his lover. He couldn’t have done it, could he? Over six episodes, an inordinate amount of red herrings and a titanic court battle, the result might not have that surprising but I found the journey highly entertaining.
Having actors of the calibre of Kidman and Grant at the head of the cast is a real luxury to be sure, but the thrills often came from the supporting players. The marvellous Sofie Gråbøl and Noma Dumezweni as ferocious opposing counsel, the latter’s Haley Fitzgerald a storming success that deserves to be recognised come award season. Lily Rabe also impressed as she lurked in the fringes and there was also brief appearances from stage luminaries like Douglas Hodge and Annaleigh Ashford to further gild the lily.
Ultimately, it was a fairly simple tale – no spoilers here – and that much I didn’t have a problem with, especially in the stark brutality of the final message. The under-writing of Elena was problematic though, never fleshed out beyond victim/whore archetypes and that just isn’t good enough in this day and age, no matter how luxurious the production design and its detailing of the lives of the uber-rich.