The Curse Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
The Curse is as edgy, unsettling and smart as you’d expect from a series created by Nathan Fielder, the experimental creator of the recent quasi-reality show The Rehearsal, and actor-indie filmmaker Benny Safdie, who star along with Emma Stone. The show is nominally a satire about a married couple creating a television pilot for a home-improvement series in the town of Espanola, New Mexico, not far from Los Alamos (any jittery association with the site of the atomic bomb test is intentional).
Fielder and Stone play Asher and Whitney Siegel, who hope their house-flipping series, called Philanthropy, will make them the next Chip and Joanna Gaines but with a do-gooder gloss, becoming famous while bringing jobs and eco-friendly homes to a community beset by unemployment and gentrification. The first three episodes shown at the New York Film Festival go well beyond that to encompass the falseness of television and the duplicity in relationships, as well as white privilege and trust issues, all presented with wry humour. The Curse is the kind of comedy whose funny moments pop up reassuringly, distractions from how deliberately off-kilter it keeps you.
That tone is aligned with Fielder’s unnerving meta approach. In The Rehearsal, he helped people rehearse for future events, such as giving bad news to a family member. There was plenty of speculation about whether the so-called real people were actors, but the confusion was the point. Asher is a typically hard-to-pin-down Fielder character, a fumbler and a sad sack with a vein of anger and callousness underneath.
His wife is, at least on the surface, as breezy, unflappable and sincere as her husband is awkward and self-centred. But Stone lets us see that there is something synthetic about Whitney, whose depths and motives – and how she ended up with the unlikely Asher – haven’t yet been revealed. Stone has quickly moved past Hollywood stardom to claim serious artistic credentials, with three projects at this year’s New York Film Festival alone. The other two, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, include her startlingly fresh role in Poor Things, as a Frankenstein-like character whose brain moves from infancy to independent-minded woman, and Bleat, a 30-minute black and white silent that explores the fuzzy line between life and death. An enigmatic quality runs through all three of these characters, with the pleasant Whitney far more real and relatable but with her own fathomless layers.
Safdie, whose acting roles include a small part in Oppenheimer, is also writer and director, with his brother, Josh, of gritty independent films like Uncut Gems. That bracingly harsh perspective runs through The Curse as well, but his role here as Asher and Whitney’s producer, Dougie, is very different. Dougie has come from New York, although his shaggy hair and T-shirt make him look like an exile from a long forgotten Grateful Dead concert. Safdie has some of the show’s best comic moments. Representing all the worst traits of reality television, Dougie hilariously creates fake tears for a woman on their show who is not displaying enough joy on camera.
By episode three the series has turned darker and deeper. And it becomes even more self-aware about race, prejudice and thoughtless condescension. In the show’s very first scene, we look through a window into a house where a mother and son are being interviewed, creating a voyeuristic sense that subtly creeps through the next episodes, with views through a mysterious peephole and on video monitors. A myriad of subplots weave in and out. There are jokes about small penises. Asher attempts to get incriminating evidence from a casino where he used to work, hoping to barter it with a local television reporter for better coverage. And he and Whitney try to co-opt her friend, a Native American artist, to be their unpaid consultant, because they don’t want to seem to be exploiting the local Native population.
Overriding it all is the curse. Asher gives a little girl selling cans of soda in a parking lot $100 so he will look philanthropic for Dougie’s cameras, only to snatch it back when he thinks the cameras are off. The girl says “I curse you”, although at first no one knows whether that is a TikTok meme or a genuine blight on their lives.
By episode three, the series has turned darker and deeper. Why is Dougie crying alone? And it becomes even more self-aware about race, prejudice and thoughtless condescension. Early on, the show evokes a queasy feeling about how it might regard Native Americans and the black child who pronounces the curse, but the subject of race later erupts in a volatile argument between Asher and Whitney. However the next seven unpredictable episodes unfold, The Curse is already one of the most richly imagined and acted shows of the year.