The Undoing movie review & film summary (2020)

“Big Little Lies” star Nicole Kidman reunites with the writer of that award winner, David E. Kelley, to adapt Jean Hanff Korelitz’s You Should Have Known, the story of a NY murder that unravels the marriage of a wealthy couple. Kidman plays Grace Fraser, and one look at her Manhattan residence makes clear she has generational wealth (although one of the problems here is how little Kelley seems interested in examining how privilege impacts what unfolds). She’s a high-profile couples therapist, and her husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) is a successful pediatric oncologist. They have a well-adjusted child named Henry (Noah Jupe), and life seems good.

The series premiere, which is easily the best episode, drops a woman named Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis) into the highly manicured life of Grace Fraser. She meets her at a committee meeting for a school auction, as both of their children attend the prestigious Reardon School. Elena seems oddly interested in Grace, making her uncomfortable, but Grace tries to be kind and helpful. Suddenly, Elena’s bludgeoned body is found in her salon, and it’s revealed that the young mother of two was fascinated with Grace for reasons that will unravel the domestic bliss of the Frasers. From this promising start, “The Undoing” turns into a courtroom whodunit as Grace attempts to determine exactly how much of her life has been a lie.

“The Undoing” has undeniably high production values and a top-notch cast, but they’re in service of increasingly lackluster and inconsistent storytelling. Kidman is typically strong, but the courtroom material often sidelines her as the plot goes through its machinations, and solid work by Grant, Sutherland, and Edgar Ramirez (as the investigating detective) suffers a similar fate, although someone should greenlight a gritty mystery-of-the-week series for Ramirez, who brings a bit of charm to a series that needed a lot more of it. 

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