Broadcast starting today on Paramount+, the mini-series “The Curse” stars Emma Stone in a UFO comedy about a couple struck by a curse.
What is it about ?
A supposed curse seems to befall a newlywed couple who are trying to conceive a child. Their daily life is filmed 24 hours a day because they participate in a reality TV show.
The Curse, a series created by Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie with Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder, Benny Safdie…
The weirdest series of the year
In The Curse, Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney Siegel (Emma Stone) have been married for a year, and live in Española, a working-class town in northern New Mexico. This is where they hope to launch a real revolution with so-called passive ecological houses and at the same time intend to sell the pilot of their show on HGTV – a television channel specializing in decoration – which focuses on the efforts of the duo to build and sell these chic, sustainable homes designed by Whitney.
Whitney and Asher see themselves as philanthropists – even though they are pure capitalists – and progressive people by living in Española, and hoping to attract out-of-town buyers and high-end businesses. They believe their actions will ultimately help the community, even though most current residents struggle to make ends meet.
As Asher explains to local television reporter Monica Perez, “we truly believe that gentrification should not be a game where there are winners and losers“.
But what the couple stubbornly refuses to admit is that being convinced of something does not make it fact. Whitney, for her part, chooses to believe that people won’t draw connections between her real estate activities in Española and those of her parents, Paul (Corbin Bernsen) and Elizabeth (Constance Shulman), who have been referred to as “sleep merchants” by the local press three years earlier.
And the television interview that the couple gives to Monica turns sour when the latter questions Whitney about “the ruthless approach to evictions” from his parents, and Asher loses his temper. A fit of anger which will have a series of harmful consequences for the couple.
The beginning of the nightmare
Meanwhile, their producer, reality TV veteran Dougie (Benny Safdie), keeps insisting that his stars be more confrontational, prompting Asher and Whitney to complain about each other on camera. . Dougie regularly tries to stage moments for the show, and in the premiere, he convinces Asher to give money to Nala (Hikmah Warsame), a little Somali girl who sells sodas in a parking lot.
Once the cameras stop rolling, Asher takes the money back – a $100 bill – and promises to come back with $20, but Nala disagrees. Furious, the little girl looks at him with the ferocity that only children are capable of and declares: “I curse you“. He tries to ignore it, but as production continues and he and Whitney’s falsely philanthropic acts backfire. And Asher begins to fear that Nala’s curse has real consequences.
Whitney and Asher are surrounded by people who despise them but pretend to tolerate them because it suits their needs. Like Cara (Nizhonniya Luxi Austin), a local indigenous artist, who accepts the Siegels’ largesse almost without flinching.
After the incident with Nala in the parking lot, the girl’s father, Abshir (Barkhad Abdi, from Captain Phillips), becomes the target of self-serving generosity from Asher and Whitney, which he receives with a impassive detachment. He endures the Siegels’ intrusion into his family’s lives but refuses to give them the abject gratitude they so clearly desire.
It is only when Asher continues to ask Nala about her “curse” that Abshir finally reprimands his unwanted benefactor. “If you put an idea in your head, he warns, it can become very real.” It’s a lesson that comes too late for the Siegels — and the series explores how the beliefs we cling to, good or bad, can be just as destructive.
Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie strive to make their characters perfectly ridiculous and detestable. They are the caricature of an overly self-righteous left. Their composition is often exaggerated, and even if it is intended, the effect produced on the viewer can be the opposite of the initial intention. The series denounces a form of bad taste while cheerfully practicing it but without taking the necessary distance for the comedy to hit the mark.
Part of this comes from Fielder’s penchant for wallowing in moments of unease, immersing the viewer in their own unease for a long time, far too long compared to other series that have mastered the exercise.
Other scenes simply drift towards nowhere, and one senses that Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie may have suffered from a little too much self-righteousness to cut to the chase. But all this weirdness and this “embarrassment” – an ugly fashionable term but which is aimed at the potential audience of the series – is enough to find its audience.
The Curse is currently streaming on Paramount+ one episode per week.