In HBO’s ‘The Undoing,’ a perfect life unravels

In HBO’s “The Undoing” (debuting Sunday night at 9), Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman stars as a New York City therapist who has it all: a charming oncologist husband (Hugh Grant), a precocious son, and a comfy life most of us can’t even afford to dream about.

But what you don’t know can destroy you.

Based on the novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz, this six-episode limited series written by David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “Ally McBeal”), spotlights Grace Fraser (Kidman), an in-demand therapist who doles out hard truths to those patients who need to hear them.

With others, she goes beyond the limit to be kind and solicitous, as when a new mother, Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis), shows up to the planning meeting for a fundraiser for the private school their sons attend.

Elena (Matilda De Angelis) is the new mom on "The Undoing" (Photo: HBO)
Elena (Matilda De Angelis) is the new mom on “The Undoing” (Photo: HBO)

The other moms, led by Sylvia Steinetz (Lily Rabe, “American Horror Story”), snipe that Elena is just a scholarship mom – yes, that’s true – and are horrified when Elena breastfeeds her new baby right at the table.

Grace, however, tries to make Elena feel welcome.

Elena, for her part, seems mesmerized by Grace.

To say any more would spoil the surprises.

The first installment does a terrific job of establishing Grace and the capable ways in which she navigates her professional and personal lives. You get what’s at stake, which should make the ensuing weeks all the more delicious.

By hour’s end, Grace has hit what you might call a speed bump. It looks to be the first of many.

Kidman has done the finest work of her career in television (see both seasons of “Big Little Lies”), and taking on “The Undoing” looks to be another smart move.

There’s an odd comfort in seeing rich, beautiful people fall. We wouldn’t be so foolish, we tell ourselves. Or would we?

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