Friday, January 13, 2023

The Undoing

Television series have an advantage over movies as they have time to develop plots and characters.  On streaming services they have found that series are in great demand.  There are enough series available that bingeing is common with a dynamic different from when I grew up.  New ones are also coming on board that force you to wait at least a few days.

"The Undoing" (2020) got my attention with the cast and crew.  Kept building tension and character development.  The story revolves around the  Fraser  family.  Grace is a a psycho therapist married to Jonathan Fraser, an oncologist and their son Henry. 

 Like most mysteries information is released in chunks.  A common theme is that everyone is suspicious of others' motives.   The dialogue from cynical police, clever lawyers, privileged people and even a young boy are interesting.  My favorite line comes from a lawyer paraphrased as  "I make muck to make the state burden too difficult to prosecute."  An interesting excuse for not answering a call was what Grace said when she doesn't recognize a number she assumes they are a telemarketer and won't answer.  

We are introduced to Grace Fraser working as a psycho therapist.  Later she visits a fund raiser with her husband Jonathan for the private school her son attends.  Along the way we meet some of her close friends, one of whom is a lawyer.   More critical to the plot is we meet the soon to be murder victim.  The next day we learn about the brutal murder and that Grace cannot trace her husband who had said he was attending a medical convention out of town.

Soon we learn from detectives that her husband is a person of interest and soon are told he is a suspect.  Indeed that case escalates rapidly.  He appears at his father-in-law's cottage claiming to be innocent of the murder, but confessing to an affair with the victim.  Her legal friend advises her and over time we are introduced to two other lawyers for the defense.  She has conflicting feelings and her son becomes a concern.  Her very wealthy father who dislikes her husband gives financial and finally emotional support.

We are surprised by information about Grace, her husband, father, victim and son that keep us riveted.  You don't want to know the guilty party as that would spoil the process.  It is very well done. 

This series has an impressive pedigree that almost guarantees the success it achieved.

Susanne Bier  is a key reason for this blog as I have admired many of her films.   She graduated from the Danish School of Film and has also been educated in Israel and England.  She has won an Oscar, an Emmy and numerous global awards with films on both sides of the Atlantic.  Her films have been record setters commercially.   Her film credits include "After the Wedding" (2006), "Things we Lost in the Fire" (2007) "In a Better World" (2010), "Love is All You Need" (2012), "Serena" (2014) and "The   First Lady" (2022)    A quote noted from IMDB "I think it really is about addressing the conflict between the characters and addressing the storytelling and psychology.  That way, the feelings are the undercurrent of the whole story, which is exciting".

David E. Kelley wrote the script and was also a producer and executive producer.  He accounts for many of legal details in the script.  He had been a lawyer in Boston which formed the basis for a tv. script, "From the Hip" (1987).  From there he had been invited to be involved with "L.A. Law" and became an editor and producer as well as writer for some scripts.  Married actress Michelle Pfeiffer, accepting her adopted daughter on the wedding date.  Has won 11 Primetime Emmys.  His film credits include "Chicago Hope" (1994-2000), "Ally McBeal" (1997-2002), "Big Little Lies" (2017-2019), "Nine Perfect Strangers" (2021) and "Anatomy of a Scandal" (2022).

The original novel, "You Should have Known" was by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  A previous novel made it to the screen, "Admission" (2013)  and another is in the works, "The Plot" which will be a mini series with  Mahershala Alli.

Music was provided by French brothers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.  They have Russian and Ukrainian roots and have in fact won awards in Russian and French films.  Their film credits include:  "The Big Picture' (2010), "The Family" (2013), "Loveless" (2017), "Paterno" (2018) and"By the Grace of God" (2019)

Anthony Dod Mantle was the cinematogher.  In some ways New York City was another character and was brilliantly photographed.  He won an Oscar for "Slum Dog Millionaire" (2008)).   His film credits include "Millions" (2004),"The Last King of Scotland" 2006), "Wallander" (2008) "Trance" (2013), " "Snowden" (2016), "The Putin Interviews" (2017), "First They Killed my Father" (2016) "The Command" (2018).

 Ben Lester, the editor with film credits that include "Shetland" (2013), "The Widower" (2013), "Broadchurch" (2016) and "Nine Perfect Strangers" (2021)

Nicole Kidman, executive producer and lead actress had been raised in Australia.  At age 16 she got her first movie role in 1983.  By 1987 she had won an Australian Film Institute award and two years later made her first American film, "Dead Calm".  Won Oscar for "The Hours" (2002).  Stage performer in London for "The Blue Room".    Tall at 5'11" avoided wearing heels when married to Tom Cruise, but now usually wears high heels on stage  played piano in "Cold Mountain" (2003) sang in "Moulin Rouge" (2001).   Other film credits include:  "The Interpreter" (2005)"Lion" (2016), "The Beguiled" (2017), "Being the Ricardos" (2021).  Quoted giving advice to Natlalie Portman "always choose a film by its director.  You're never certain how the movie will turn out, but you are always guaranteed an interesting experience".

Hugh Grant impressed me in contrast to how I have mostly seen him.  He won a scholarship to Oxford where he took part in theatre.  His first film appearance was while a student, "Privileged" (1982.  His film credits include:  "Sense and Sensibilty" (1996), Notting Hill" (1999), "About a Boy" (2003),, "Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason" (2005)  "Love Actually" (2004), "Music and Lyrics" (2007), "The Rewrite" (2014) and "Florence Foster Jenkins" (2016),

"Donald Sutherland" plays the rich father, Franklin Reindhardt who not only lends huge amounts of money, but also support for his daughter and grandson.  Born in Canada and attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with degrees in engineering and drama.  His break came with "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) and was able to switch to comedy with another war film "M*A*S*H" (1970).  Other film credits included:  "Klute" (1971),  "The Eagle Has Landed" (1975), "Ordinary People" (1980) "Eye of the Needle" (1981), "JFK"  (1991"Jappeloup" (2014) and "The Leisure Seeker" (2017).  An ardent fan of the Montreal Expos Sutherland would not accept any offers during one season so he could attend more games including on the road.

Noah Jupe plays Henry Fraser, the son.,one who stands up to both his parents.   Noah, born in Britain is the son of a film producer and an actress.  By age 10 he had appeared in one episode of "Downton Abbey" (2015).   From there was in his first television series.  George Clooned recommended him to John Krasinski for "A Quiet Place" (2018).  Other film credits include "Wonder" (2018) and "Ford v Ferrari" (2019).

Noma Dumezweni played the very tough lawyer  Haley Fitzgerald and got to deliver the line about "muck" referred to above.  She was born in Swaziland and came to Britain where she participated in youth theatrical groups.  Her film credits include:  "Dirty Pretty Things" (2016) and "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" (2019).

Edgar Ramirez plays a cynical police detective.  He was born in Venezuela with a lawyer mother and a soldier father that moved around a lot allowing Edgar to learn five languages.  His film credits include "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), "The Liberator"(2013) "Joy" (2015), "The Girl on the Train" (2016), and "Gold" (2016).

I found it on a DVD borrowed from my local library.  In some cases I prefer DVD over streaming services especially when they offer special features as this one did.  It is also available on Crave.

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