Review: The Curse (S1) – More than just superstition

Created by Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie
Starring Nathan Fielder, Emma Stone, Benny Safdie
Network: Paramount+

A show created by Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie was always going to be ambitious, particularly on an existential level. The Curse can initially feel like a mess, with so many character stories going on tangents and not being entirely resolved. But as the show goes on, not only is the mess cleaned up a bit, but it feels more purposeful as well. This show aims to satirise reality television and woke trust fund folks, but its bigger and clearer aim is to create a truly alive world with real and authentic people, no matter how cringeworthy they can be.

Whitney (Emma Stone) and her husband Asher (Nathan Fielder) have a philanthropic business reconstructing homes into ‘passive houses’, which use far less energy. Their deeds are being turned into a pilot episode for TV, directed by Asher’s friend Dougie (Benny Safdie). From here, we see the unravelling of how the reality show is faked, as well as the unravelling of this couple’s relationship and how they feel about one another.

It satirises the two main characters, one an SJW and the other a beta male, and although there are some amusing jabs at these modern archetypes, the show isn’t lazy enough to just rely on making fun of them and does its satirising from a humanising place. This actually ends up making the jokes about these characters even more surprising.

Perhaps the lack of direction is really felt in the first half of the season, where there’s at least enough intrigue to keep you watching. But thankfully, things get a little more concrete in the season’s second half, where episodes feel more whole rather than compiled of random bits and pieces of people’s lives. Episode 5 revolves solely around a troubleshooting episode, which resorts to faking this reality TV, and episode 8 expands on the relationship between Asher and Dougie in an unbelievably interesting and unexpected way, which itself takes another unexpected twist as it goes on.

Ultimately, The Curse ends by finishing enough of its stories and answering enough of its questions. The final episode takes the show into a rather nightmarish dimension, one with the kind of predicament that can make for very anxious viewing. This also makes the end of the season so sad, where each of the three characters are last seen in three completely different emotional states. It really makes the show quite an emotional whirlwind that, despite the bumps along the way, make it a very rewarding and worthwhile watch.