The mini-series focuses on the Fraser family from New York. The head of the family, sixty-year-old Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant), is a successful pediatric oncologist. His wife Grace (Nicole Kidman) comes from a very wealthy New York family. Grace works as a psychologist, earns a lot of money. They have a son, Henry (Noah Jule), a teenager studying at a private school for children of wealthy parents.
Grace is involved in the work of the school committee: they are preparing a charity auction. A certain Elena Alves (Matilde De Angelis), the mother of a student of Miguel Alves, unexpectedly came to the meeting of the school committee. Unlike the rich ladies present on the committee, Elena is from Harlem, she and her husband Fernando (Ismael Cruz) live in a poor apartment in a poor area. Her son was taken to the school without paying a scholarship, which is paid to especially gifted students. Elena clearly has some special interest in Grace, and Mrs. Fraser is very unnerved by this.
The school holds a charity auction the next day. Grace comes to the auction with her husband, although Jonathan cannot stand such events. Also, Elena comes to the auction in a rather revealing outfit, and she makes a splash among the men present at the evening. However, Grace notices that Elena is very upset about something. Without waiting for the end of the auction, Elena leaves, and after a while Jonathan tells Grace that he was called to see a patient.
Jonathan returns home in the middle of the night, and the next day he leaves for Cleveland for a symposium. In the afternoon, Grace learns that Elena was found brutally murdered in her studio – she is an artist. Moreover, her son discovered, who was worried because Elena did not come to spend the night.
Grace tries to call her husband, but the answering machine always goes off. Two police detectives investigating come to her and start asking her questions about Elena, the past auction, also asking if they can talk to Jonathan.
And all this completely changes the life of the Fraser family. The well-being of the family after what happened is broken like a beautiful porcelain plate under a blow of a hammer.
Miniseries by showrunner David E. Kelly. David wrote the script based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s acclaimed novel You Should Have Known. The series was directed by Danish Susanne Birr, whose track record includes several well-known films, including “Revenge”, for which she received an Oscar as the best foreign language film, she also staged the famous series “The Night Manager”.
“Play back” aroused great interest among the public. Which is not surprising at all: infrequently three stars of such magnitude as Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland appear in the series at once.
Speaking of “Play Back”, they often recall the series “Big Little Lies” with Nicole Kidman, where there was something similar: the murder happened at a charity school ball, the series tells about the events leading up to the incident, and it turns out that five families , whose children go to the same class, are somehow connected with this murder.
And by the way, the connection is all the more obvious because David E. Kelly was also showrunner on Big Little Lies.
But let’s talk about “Play Back”. This is a mini-series, that is, a complete story, consisting of six hour-long episodes. That is, it is actually such a six-hour film. And the first thing that can be said about this mini-series is that if it was put into a 2.5-hour film, then it would not lose anything from this, but only gain. This is really deliberately stretching the narrative, in which actually there is not so much going on.
But, by the way, this is done quite skillfully: the directors are quite experienced and, as it should be according to the precepts of Scheherazade, at the end of each episode they throw up the so-called cliffhanger, that is, this is a turn, the disclosure and development of which is suspended until the next episode.
Nicole Kidman had a significant influence on the creation of this series. Her production company, Blossom Films, bought the film rights to You Should Have Known and produced the series (along with three other companies), Kidman is an executive producer on this project.
I have not seen her on the screen for a long time, and here, like many other viewers, all this facial plasticity, which Nicole, of course, clearly used, is very striking. It was all done very skillfully, a lot of money was clearly invested in the plastic, but, as is well known, Botox injections smooth the skin on the face well, but the face becomes like a motionless mask: it simply cannot express any vivid emotions on it. . In addition, plastic surgeons clearly did something wrong with her lips, because her mouth slightly resembles the mouth of the Joker from The Dark Knight. Not that it’s so catastrophic, but it reminds me.
No, of course, if you look at her in static – well, yes, you can’t say that this woman is already over fifty. Thirty – thirty five. But when all this is dynamic in the series, then, of course, it is impossible not to pay attention to it.
Therefore, in fact, to play, that is, to portray some kind of emotion, Kidman is very difficult. And here, after all, everything revolves around her heroine, it is she who is the main character of the series! So she can only turn pale – this is the only way some emotions are visible. And by the sixth series, Nicole pales to the color of Carrara marble.
But, however, you can look at it in a different way, which I tried to do. She plays who? A fifty-two-year-old lady from a very wealthy family. Could such a lady do plastic surgery? Not only could, but, most likely, she definitely did. Plastic surgery, Botox and all that stuff. So what are you nitpicking about, we might ask ourselves? Nicole played such a botox lady with obvious traces of plastic surgery on her face. And – yes, the lady is not very good at expressing any emotions. But they do exist, these emotions! Beloved husband, the cat of a bitch, not only had some other affair on the side, but he is now accused of brutal murder! But you have to live somehow! It is necessary to somehow explain to the child that the husband, of course, is a bitch, but he is still our bitch, but no, he is not capable of killing. So you have to fight!
Hugh Grant is just great here. His sixty years are clearly reflected on his face, but he is not at all embarrassed by this and does not try to somehow hide his age. And I like Hugh Grant at this age much more than his old role of the handsome “Mickey – blue eyes” (although I repeat once again that just the film with this name, where Grant played, is unexpectedly good). Grant recently played excellently in the chic “Gentlemen”, and now here too – a very bright role, and against the backdrop of a completely unemotional Kidman Grant turned around with might and main!
And his character is very interesting. An oncologist working with children – what, generally speaking, could be sadder? Nevertheless, he has a great sense of humor, he knows how to support his little patients with this humor, he is very charming and charms everyone who deals with him. At the same time, Jonathan cheated on his wife (and who knows, once), he is accused of murder, and he dragged the family into a story from which it is completely incomprehensible how the wife and son will be able to recover at all.
It was played very well, and I didn’t have any complaints about his character, his motivation and everything else: in terms of Jonathan’s behavior, in my opinion, there are no punctures in the script, although many viewers disagree with me.
Hollywood patriarch Donald Sutherland is great as Franklin Reinhardt, Grace’s father. It doesn’t have many episodes, but every appearance of Sutherland’s character is just a celebration! A rich, very strong and wise man who adores his daughter, does not digest his son-in-law, but he did not forbid his daughter to marry the one she chose (yes, she would not have obeyed him, she also has a strong character): he cannot interfere , even when he understands that it is absolutely necessary, because he does not want to spoil a very touching and trusting relationship with his daughter. So all that remains for him is, to the best of his ability and ability, to support Grace in all the vicissitudes of this extremely difficult story, which he does.
The series’ fourth-highest character is lawyer Hayley Fitzgerald, played by Noma Dumezweni to great effect. It was Franklin’s dad who advised his daughter to hire a tough lawyer, and Hayley fights in court to the last. A very interesting character and a very bright role. By the way, in court, Hailey fought with the prosecutor Katherine Stamper, in the role of which, to my surprise, was the Danish Sophie Grobøl, who played the completely meditative role of police detective Sarah Lundt in the bad Scandinavian TV series “Murder”, which many viewers and critics like, but I just left me confused. Well, here Sophie Grobeul’s role is at least quite bright, and she played it with dignity.
Of the other characters, I note the young Noah Jupe, who played the son of the Fraser Henry. There, the teenager has a lot of all sorts of experiences, and he plays a prominent role in the story, so Noah played Henry very well!
Other potentially interesting characters—Elena’s husband Fernando, Grace’s friend Silvia, Detective Mendoza—didn’t really get a chance to come to the fore, because that was Grace’s agenda.
What do we get as a result? I never regretted watching it: Bublik the cat called it a bad series, but he was clearly showing off, because the series was not bad at all, on the contrary, it was very decent: we watched it with great interest and we waited for everything to end. By the way, the ending did not disappoint us at all – unlike some other viewers. And I really even want to ask them: what were you waiting for? That the killer would be the gardener or the butler? No, here in this regard, as it seemed to us, everything was done correctly.
Should I watch this mini-series? In our opinion, this makes sense. Not without flaws, not without claims, but still quite a bright event in the world of new detective series. And for the sake of Sutherland and Grant – you can definitely watch it, because the roles are really very cool!
Play Back / The Undoing movie review
Director: David E. Kelly Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland, Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Mathilde De Angeles, Edan Alexander, Michael Devine, Noma Dumezweni, Sophie Grobeul, Ismael Cruz
Series, USA, 2020, 60 min.