The director of “Nine Perfect Strangers” on his “psychedelic soap opera”


It is a challenge to set, precisely, the tone of Hulu Nine complete strangers. Is it a drama? The tragic stories of the nine injured people seeking redemption at an elite California spa would indicate yes. Or is it a comedy? The improvisational spirit of a comedy star like Melissa McCarthy, coupled with a gentle satire of the wellness community, might point viewers in that direction. Or is it a mystery thriller? After all, the show has a classic Agatha Christie premise of disparate strangers forced to stick together – plus whatever haunts the enigmatic spa boss, Masha, played by Nicole Kidman.

Corn Jonathan levine—Who directed all eight episodes — invented a new genre to describe his show: the psychedelic soap opera. With its fourth episode, the series showed its cards and put its mushroom smoothies on the table. Unbeknownst to the nine strangers who gathered at Tranquillum House in search of a therapeutic breakthrough, Masha has microdosed her guests with psilocybin… and Levine is there to capture every puffed up pupil and emotional catharsis.

At first glance, Levine may not seem perfect for Nine complete strangers. His CV includes Seth Rogen stoner comedies, the romantic zombie comedy Warm bodies, a cannabis-based Sundance smash called Madness, and the slasher All boys love Mandy Lane. But take a closer look, and you’ll find some of these comedies, like 2019’s criminally overlooked. Long Shot, with Rogen and Charlize theron– showed a surprising amount of heart. See, for example, 2011 50/50, which explores cancer, bereavement and mortality … and also involves grass. In other words, Levine is kind of an expert when it comes to not losing his grip on humanity and emotion in the middle of a drug trip.

As he explains to Vanity Show‘s Keep watching podcast, things only get worse Nine complete strangers. You can listen to the full episode here, or read an excerpt below.

“I’ve had the opportunity to direct a lot of people pretending to be drugged,” says Levine. “I like to think of myself as an expert in this particular area of ​​filmmaking.” Because the revelations of Masha’s unorthodox therapeutic tactics aren’t revealed until the end of episode three and are not confirmed until episode four, Levine must have subtly introduced the feeling that something strange is happening. plagued the Tranquillum house. “We wanted the audience to think something was wrong, but we didn’t really want them to know exactly what was going on. We wanted to be a little ahead of the audience.

Levine has some rules for directing his actors in altered states. “I don’t want anyone to play badly,” he said. “[That can be] a little deadly when you play with people on drugs. It’s not like Reefer Madness, [where people] just panic…. Everyone has posed their own subtle behavior, uh, because of the drugs. For Michael [Shannon], it was one thing; for Police officer [Cannavale], that was another… much of it can also be dictated in edits.

Outside of working with his cast, Levine relied on proven camera methods to give Episode Three, in particular, a triggered vibe. “Not just the movement of the camera, but the composition and choice of lens,” he says, “is starting to indicate that something is going wrong a bit more. We were using Dutch angles, we were using a bit of drift in and out. Another tool in the toolkit is subtlety with the camera. If everyone was sober, we tried to have a very shallow depth of field, which means that only the characters’ faces are crisp and sharp. “

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