The best subtitle for writer/director David Kelley’s brand new HBO movie seems to be “It’s better to look good than feel good.” Almost everyone in this spectacularly good-looking film looks good, especially the star, Nicole Kidman, but almost nobody feels good. Angst is the COVID-19 of this crowd.

But prepare yourself. After a too long exposition in which we meet almost everyone but the mailman, the centerpiece we’ve been promised, a bloody murder, makes its debut.
The players: They’re all gorgeous, even the men, even the old folks are stunning.

Donald Sutherland, who plays Kidman’s super rich daddy, looks great. Is he the killer? I don’t know, but doesn’t he always look like the killer?

At 53, Kidman looks the same as she did when she made “Eyes Wide Shut,” and that was what? Thirty years ago?

She could be the killer. I don’t know that either. She won’t be of course, because Kidman, who wears the best clothes I’ve ever seen on a woman, wouldn’t be caught dead in a prison orange jump suit.

A spoiler: That’s Kidman singing Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt and Gus Kahn’s 1931 “Dream a Little Dream of Me” that covers the title crawl.

Hugh Grant, who plays her husband, Dr. Jonathon, a pediatric oncologist of all things, is his usual great looking self. He could be the killer, but I hope not.

They have a son Henry (Noah Jupe) a student at the most exclusive Manhattan private school. Henry is a curious and intelligent lad, and I think he’s going to crack this case before the lead cop, Michael Devine. (No relation, as far as I know.)

The most “looking good” of all of them, and I mean really looking good, is the victim (a smoky, sensual Matilda De Angelis, “The Prize”). You’ll see a lot of Matilda before she passes, especially in her spectacular full view nude scene in front of Kidman in the gym that blows all the fuses. Love the rewind button.

And you’re going to miss this delectable corpse, because physically, De Angelis upstages the lead lady, Nicole Kidman, who almost always “looks good.”

And who is the cute little Latino boy who runs away from the school bus? It’s Miguel Alves (Edan Alexander) Matilda’s son, who stumbles onto the crime scene.

Hovering in the shadows is his father Fernando (Ismael Cruz Cordova, the best screen name since Antonio Banderas).

Oh yes, the movie itself.

Kelley, a Waterville boy by the way, and a great looking fella himself, and who is married to one of the most stunning film actors of all time, the gifted and gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer, has been one of my favorite writer-directors since “The Practice.”

Kelley puts this piece together in the classic British style, not just one brick at a time, but each layer of cement holding them in place.

Slowly he proceeds, teasing us with great street shots of the once upon a time lively Manhattan, and lots and lots of Kidman, wearing expensive lounging clothes, as when she stands in a to-die-for kitchen, preparing her son’s after-school sandwiches. Watch the close up of her holding the knife as she slices the sandwich. Just teasing.

Slowly, Kelley drops in one interesting character after another, the way Agatha Christie did in “Ten Little Indians,” each with an intriguing feature or manner, so that we can sit there at home selecting the character we think killed the victim. Fun.

Of course, it’s a six-parter, and you can’t stream it in one night, so it’s much too early to pick a villain, and Kelley, a superb polished provider of power plots from “Chicago Hope,” to “Big Little Lies,” is way too smart a writer to give anything away.

“The Undoing” may be his finest.

 

“The Undoing” is based on “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz, and shows on HBO MAX Sunday nights. Pass the popcorn.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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