Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie’s “The Curse” has carved its own path of social discomfort and magical realism unlike anything on television before.
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“The Curse” Plot Summary
When Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie announced they were working on “The Curse,” film enthusiasts and comedy fans alike were intrigued by this collaboration. Emma Stone’s starring role and A24’s involvement only heightened the possibilities of the promising, bizarre, and intense journey viewers were going to take. Ten episodes later, “The Curse” has carved its own path of social discomfort and magical realism unlike anything on television before.
In “The Curse,” Asher and Whitney Siegel (Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone) are the perfect couple who are becoming home improvement television stars. Residents of Española, New Mexico, will get jobs and eco-friendly houses, and the Siegels will become rich and famous with their “live green” message. It’s a win-win for everyone. Their show, obnoxiously titled “Fliplanthropy,” is also made possible by their cajoling, slimy director, Dougie (Benny Safdie). Dougie is an old friend of Asher’s, and while he butts heads with Whitney over the direction of the show, they both understand her star power. The team’s success falls on the shoulders of how charismatic their pilot episode is, but their fortunes and lives slowly start to unravel, and Asher believes his pettiness towards a little girl is to blame.
In a moment of filmed charity, Asher gives a little girl $100, but when the cameras stop rolling, he immediately tries to take the money back. A fight between Asher and the little girl ensues until she tells Asher that she curses him. The claim is small and inconsequential, and Asher thinks nothing of it until their house-flipping plans start to spiral out of control. Whitney’s family history of slum-housing is threatened to be made public, Dougie’s isolation and alcoholism start to increase, the Siegels’ influence on Española is doing more harm than good, and Asher and Whitney’s marriage may be in more trouble than what television cameras are capturing.
“The Curse” relishes its fantastical premise and dissects the falsehoods of reality TV, the dangers of gentrification, and the white-savior complex of its characters. The show can make you laugh and feel queasy as it puts a mirror on our own entertainment, our own charity, and our strained relationships. In a time where plenty of people have a camera and film themselves “giving” to others and “doing good,” “The Curse” is interested in ripping off the bandage we put on our generational trauma and picking at the scab of false philanthropy. It’s an unnerving and always riveting show.
Benny Safdie, Nathan Fielder, Emma Stone, and the rest of the cast and crew have created a show that creates conversation. Viewers will come away with their own critique and interpretation of the story. Is there an actual curse? Are we just victims of forces out of our control? What power do we have? And is anything we do really for the good of others? These are all questions posed in “The Curse.” From its unsettling start to jaw-dropping end, “The Curse” is a gift for anyone looking torn up from their roots and left drifting into uncharted territory.
“The Curse” is rated TV-MA for cursing throughout, threats of violence, male nudity, explicit sexual situations, and alcohol.
Other Noteworthy Information
- The series was inspired by an incident in Nathan Fielder’s past. He was approached by a panhandler in Los Angeles. After Fielder turned down the woman’s request for money, she told him, “I curse you.” Fielder was so shaken by her words that he went to an ATM and withdrew $20. After giving the woman the money, he asked if the curse had been broken. She said it had.
- Open casting calls for the show resulted in people on screen who had never acted before.
“The Curse” General Information
As of this writing, “The Curse” is intended to only be one season.
(Series Page | Character Guide)
“The Curse” Review
Notable Performances, Moments, or Episodes
Emma Stone as Whitney Siegel
Emma Stone colors a new shade of Whitney Siegel within each episode. Her veiled charisma and charity through feigned smiles that linger a second too long are a masterpiece in themselves. In “The Curse,” Stone gets a chance to play Joanna Gaines and Lady Macbeth within each episode. Her insecurity, need for power, need for validation, and need to carve her own path at the expense of all those around her are terrifying and pitiful all at once.
Episodes To Anticipate
- 1.1, “Land of Enchantment,” introduces the main characters and their goals. 1.3, “Questa Lane” conveys the highs and lows of Whitney and Asher’s relationship. 1.5, “It’s a Good Day,” reveals the complexities of their reality show. 1.9, “Young Hearts” has multiple storylines that finally come to a head. 1.10, “The Green Queen” will need to be watched with a friend.
A Voyeuristic Approach to Filmmaking
“The Curse” is filmed like a documentary, but one that should have never been seen. It keeps viewers peeking through windows, watching from behind a bush, peering across the street. The camera is objective yet creeping; we see the action unfold through windows, peepholes, behind other people, and objects as if we’re eavesdropping on a conversation. As much as Whitney and Asher wish to control their appearance on reality TV, our intrigue comes from seeing how they bicker and struggle when the cameras are turned off.
Intensity and Discomfort Grows with Each Episode
Leave it to Fielder and Safdie to make one of the most uncomfortable shows in existence. Seeing the delusional Whitney and Asher attempt to charm their way out of gentrification and greed can be gratifying and excruciating, yet always riveting. The conversations can be relatable and painful all at once. we see the worst parts of ourselves in Whitney and Asher. “The Curse” sets the tracks for a train wreck we see coming. Through its face-melting opening credits, slow zoom-ins on faces, and ominous synth music, each episode increases the speed of that train just a bit more, and we hunger to see the result.
A Patchwork of Genres Creates an Unforgettable Tale
Is “The Curse” a surreal satire? A fantastical cautionary tale? A marriage drama? The answer is yes to all three and more. The show could have easily been a more absurd or slapstick depiction of reality TV. The premise calls for silliness. Yet viewers will find themselves unsettled, anxious, and filled with a rising dread, as we know things will not end well for these horrible people. Because of the show’s ability to be horror, comedy, and drama all at once, you’re not sure what’s “real” within the show. Is this really happening, or is it within these people’s heads? “The Curse” is having fun eating its patchwork cake and eating it too.
On The Fence
Intricate Subplots Can Feel Like Red Herrings
Part of the intrigue of watching “The Curse” is having no notion of where its story will lead, yet part of that intrigue may be another’s frustration with the show. “The Curse” rarely explodes in the ways you predict. The characters’ turmoil remains internal, at a constant boil, threatening to spill over. But when “The Curse” introduces so many subplots (Fernando as a security guard, Whitney’s store getting stolen from, her parents’ connection, Dougie’s alcoholism, Asher snitching on the casino, etc.), the story can feel lost and leave you questioning with what matters to the core story.
Good If You Like
- Dark comedies, surreal dramas, and cringe-inducing situations.
If you like this show, we recommend:
- Uncut Gems
- The Rehearsal
- Poor Things
Check out our TV-Series page for our latest recaps and reviews, as well as recommendations.
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