The Undoing: Perfection Doesn't Exist

"The Undoing" is one of the most recent miniseries from HBO. Despite its conservative appearance, slow pace, and emotionally cold characters, it still manages to arouse a great deal of interest in the viewer. In fact, the series shows how any environment, no matter how perfect it may seem, can be shaken by crime.
The Undoing: Perfection Doesn't Exist

Last update: 29 October, 2022

The Undoing is a 2020 fictional miniseries from HBO which has had an unexpected impact on viewers. The story tells how behind an apparently sober and innocent appearance lies a sordid attempt to keep up appearances at all costs.

In this production, Nicole Kidman is more enigmatic than ever, an expert in the building of suspense. In fact, The Undoing is, from the outset, committed to exposing an apparently simple plot that gradually gains in complexity.

Despite no action shots, the program manages to maintain the viewer’s interest throughout. Indeed, right up to the last moment, we’re desperate to discover what the characters really did, even though we’ve already judged and sentenced them, right from the outset, in fact.

The Undoing: Overwhelming perfection

In recent years, we’ve become accustomed to series with strongly contentious content. Moreover, minorities have begun to take center stage on the screen. Their appearance is no longer anecdotal, decorative, and irrelevant. Stories are written and made specifically to upset the status quo.

However, The Undoing is a rather conservative series. It’s about white people who are billionaires with influential jobs. In fact, the series refused to introduce any element of the kind of reality with which we could identify.

From word go, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant are in complete charge of the suspense revolving around the dilemma: “Who can I trust?”. The aim is to show the brutality of murder in the kind of context in which it simply shouldn’t ever occur.

A psychologist with a perfect life

Nicole Kidman plays Grace Fraser, She’s a psychologist who specializes in high-end couples therapy. Her husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant), is a successful pediatric oncologist. They have a son named Henry (Noah Jupe) and their life seems perfect.

Their high-powered jobs don’t really seem to affect their marriage and the upbringing of their only son, Henry (Noah Jupe). Furthermore, Grace manages it all dressed in an enviable wardrobe of long velvet coats and shirts and expensive underwear in jeweled colors.

If any part of their life seems unbalanced it’s their rather ridiculous, cloistered social circle, centered on Reardon, the elite private school that Henry attends. Grace is a member of the school’s powerful parent committee. She’s been spared the indignity of having to fight too hard for this rather irrelevant position, as her rich father (Donald Sutherland ) is a major financial donor to the school.

However, Grace appears to want to distance herself from this fake setting. Having been part of the elite from the cradle and possessing both character and intelligence, she finds this life, rather than being stable, to be boring. So she expresses her desire to move from the city, apparently tired of a context that does little for her.

An unexpected and awkward character

The Frasers’ idyllic life will soon be shattered by an unexpected appearance. A woman named Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis) comes into Grace Fraser’s life. She’s the ‘scholarship mom’ who inevitably bursts the Frasers’ bubble.

Elena is younger than the other women on the committee and doesn’t have the same material or social advantages. She’s irreverent and stands out from the others. At the school fundraiser, she breast-feeds her baby, something the other mothers see as a hostile and passive-aggressive act.

Elena seems oddly interested in Grace, making her feel uncomfortable although she tries to be kind and helpful. However, her discomfort becomes palpable when a completely naked Elena accosts her in the gym locker room, wanting to discuss what else she can do to help out at Reardon School.

The Undoing: keeping up appearances

The key moment in the series is the fundraising auction for the school. It’s the kind of clichéd event inevitably linked to the powerful and monied classes. People talk and listen when, in reality, they have no interest in what they say or what’s said to them.

The day after the auction, Elena is found brutally beaten to death in her art studio. It’s revealed that the young mother was fascinated with Grace for reasons that end up devastating the Frasers’ domestic happiness. From hereon in, The Undoing becomes a whodunit, as Grace tries to determine how much of her life has actually been a lie.

Her husband Jonathan is uncontactable. Grace begins to think that, perhaps, we never really know those closest to us. Even when, as in her case, she’s a psychologist, highly trained in the analysis of human behavior.

Woman calling on the phone

Who to trust?

The mystery depends on how much we read into Hugh Grant’s mannerisms and his charming smile. We want to believe, like Grace, that he’s essentially a decent guy. Deep down, we harbor the hope that appearances aren’t so deceptive, after all. 

At the end of the day, this is what The Undoing is all about. The power of appearances. Not only in how we act every day, but in the desire that none of that changes. In fact, it’s thanks to appearances that many identities are maintained. And sometimes, not just a family’s, but an entire community’s.

The crime in The Undoing is portrayed by the vision of a brutally beaten woman. Its starkness makes Grace’s thoughts and her walks in a pre-pandemic New York seem even more unreal. Ultimately, the series exposes a fragile and irrelevant way of life where only appearances matter. Is this the kind of perfection we all aspire to?

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