Nine Perfect Strangers is another “entry in the emerging genre of wellness horror”, says Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic. A group of wealthy, miserable people who’ve gone to California to splash silly amounts of money on self-care instead end up in “a spa-weekend version of Dante’s Inferno”. Nicole Kidman’s creepy Masha, a “cursed Barbie doll in a diaphanous wig”, rules the roost, sliding into people’s rooms at night and whispering awful truths. We get revelations and primal screaming. “There is definitely something a bit off about the smoothies.”
Lucky us, says Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. You wait years for a miniseries about rich Americans pitching up at a luxury retreat to try to find bliss, “then two turn up at once”. HBO’s The White Lotus put stars in spas just weeks ago. To Strangers’s discredit are Kidman’s dodgy Russian accent and the simple fact of being pipped to the post. On the plus side, it’s based on Liane Moriarty’s gripping bestseller and has the magnificent Melissa McCarthy, “the best, most arresting thing in the series”, as Frances, a depressed romance novelist. For a supposedly dark thriller, it lacks staggering twists. But it’s an easy, glossy watch for anyone who doesn’t have the bandwidth for much more right now. “Which is to say, practically all of us.”
Nine Perfect Strangers is on Amazon Prime Video. Watch a trailer here.
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9/11: Inside the President’s War Room
It’s rare for a 9/11 documentary to cast George W Bush as “the chief victim”, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. But here is an excellent, if grim, appraisal of events, with the collapsing towers seen “from all angles”. Thanks to a glut of video footage taken of the president on the day, we get a near-complete picture of his 12 hours, packed with “stuff I’d never seen before”. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are all interviewed, along with Bush himself. He was whisked into Air Force One after the second plane hit at 9.03am: people thought the president would be “safest” up in the air. “What did they mean? He’d be safe from terrorists or we’d be safe from his terrible decisions?”
Prepare for a petrifying “sensation of being in the room”, says Jack Seale in The Guardian. Over 90 minutes we learn that every moment of 11 September involved “something odd or terrifying”. Bush’s doctor handed out anti-anthrax pills and the deputy communications director took his whole week’s ration “in one hit”. The plane’s steep emergency take-off left spooked aides “partially weightless”. Bush, its “star interviewee”, is enthralling. Anger is seen to override conflicting emotions, with fear and sorrow ejected for the desire to “kick their ass”, before it was known whose ass to kick. As one staffer says, Roosevelt and Churchill took weeks to make wartime decisions. This documentary is “a study of a leader being forced to make epic choices on the hop”.
9/11: Inside the President’s War Room is on the BBC iPlayer. Watch a trailer here.
Film criticism is on the critical list
“Film critics have never been so weak or timid,” says Dorian Lynskey in Unherd. The New Statesman’s Sarah Manavis was recently hounded on Twitter for calling the American soccer sitcom Ted Lasso “the most overrated show on TV”. With critics terrified of a social media backlash, the hatchet job has become “an endangered species”. Yet I will always “cherish” the right of critics to say what they hate. That’s the only way we’ll know what they truly love. As the late critic Clive James once said, “you can’t eliminate the negative. It accentuates the positive.”