Emmy and Golden Globe-winning director Susanne Bier (The Night Manager, Bird Box) joins Emmy winner David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies) for six-part limited series The Undoing, which was the centre of major discussions from crime thriller junkies when it debuted on the small screen towards the back-end of 2020.
Based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the show made history by becoming HBO's first original series to grow viewership consistently week after week throughout the season. Realising I was yet to check out what all the fuss was about, I jumped at the opportunity to review the critically-acclaimed drama on Blu-ray.
Featuring an introduction to the series by lead stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as part of its bonus features, the Blu-ray ensures that newcomers are instantly enveloped within the chaotic world they’re about to venture into.
Peeking into the lives of the wealthy elite has always been something many of us have enjoyed. Though we may not get to experience the same luxury vacations and getaways that those in the top 1% have, we’re still drawn to the likes of The Real Housewives and Below Deck for one reason or another.
Now, those shows are of course focused on reality. With a series like The Undoing which delivers a unique but fictional viewpoint of that same world, we’re coming to it for another reason altogether; to watch those in better financial positions than us inevitably fail.
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant play married couple Grace and Jonathan Fraser; the pair who, on the outside, seem to have it all. Both successful in their respective careers of choice, they maintain a healthy relationship whilst balancing the importance of their professional lives and, to top it all off, have an intelligent son who never fails to make them proud. So, when Jonathan is eyed as the chief suspect in a brutal murder case, it’s fair to say the foundations of their ‘perfect’ life are shook to their very core.
As you’d expect from performers of this caliber, Kidman and Grant give their all to their respective characters. Grace is a woman who may at times infuriate us as she seems to not have a single grasp on who her husband is, but who we still root for; whilst Jonathan is the polar opposite to what fans of Grant’s comedy roles may expect. They’re a wicked combination and I found myself incapable of ripping my eyes away from the screen when they were the focus.
The supporting cast are also mystifying, with special mentions having to go to Noah Jupe as young Henry Fraser, Lily Rabe as Sylvia Steineitz and Matilda De Angelis as the alluring Elena Alves.
The world of glitz and glamour that they’re a part of is one that draws the audience in instantly, thanks to the stunning cinematography and work done behind-the-scenes to frame shots with perfection. As viewers, we’re not just focused on the characters, but on the ridiculous wealth that surrounds them in almost every situation. To some, it’s over-the-top and sickening. For others, it’s proof of success and fuels ambition. Using set-pieces to illicit such responses is a powerful thing and a sign of true passion going into the project.
As we’ve come to expect from HBO originals, there is also a heavy aspect of sexualisation. On its own, it can be powerful, but when it’s sensationalised through the use of violence, we begin to move into murky waters. The Undoing never finds the right balance and so, you can be left with a bad taste in your mouth when these moments occur.
Twists and turns are expected, though you may not be able to predict just which direction they come from. The writing is slick and keeps you guessing from start to finish, which is exactly what’s necessary for a series like this to work.
Two other bonus features await those who buy the home release. There’s Creating The Undoing which pretty much just teases the series; and Undoing Revelations which opens up more about the reasoning behind certain decisions made by the characters at various points in the story. Nice enough additions, but it would’ve been interesting to see those included going into a bit more depth.
All in all, the Blu-ray is an essential purchase for those who haven’t seen the show, or those who have but want to relive it. If you’re coming to it just for the special features, you may be left disappointed, but the series itself is something special.
The Undoing: An HBO Limited Series is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. A copy of the series on Blu-ray was sent to Female First for the purposes of this review.