Nathan Fielder has truly become ubiquitous for blurring the lines between reality and fiction with projects like Nathan For You and The Rehearsal; they’ve become such a part of the culture that we can’t get enough. Lucky for us, Fielder is back, and this time he has added both Emma Stone and Benny Safdie to his squirmy journey through life in The Curse.
Produced by A24 and Showtime, The Curse features some of the most uncomfortable moments put on screen this year — hell, maybe ever. With Stone’s overwhelming charisma, Safdie’s punk rock loser vibe, and Fielder’s classic cringe in a dramatic role, The Curse defies logic with its genre-bending style.
The Cringe is the Juice in ‘The Curse‘
The show follows married couple Asher and Whitney Seigal (Fielder and Stone) as they embark on an HGTV-style home renovation show with the goal of bringing eco-friendly homes and job opportunities to the town of Española, New Mexico. Of course, in classic Fielder style (who also directed this episode) major societal themes such as gentrification, indigenous rights, and the allure of fame are captured and used as driving forces behind the show and its characters — albeit in an incredibly awkward and successful fashion. Fielder even refers to gentrification as “the G-Word” at one point during an interview with a local news station. Even reading that sentence makes me cringe but that is a real scene.
Benny Safdie — co-creator of the show along with Fielder — plays Dougie, the Seigal’s producer and cameraman responsible for creating their new show Flipanthropy which, if we are being honest, could actually be the title of an HGTV show (Fielder, you smart bastard!). His character, dawning a wig a la Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver, exudes punk rock jerk energy where it’s his way or the highway — the Seigals have to ask him to turn the cameras off multiple times during their outings. His own personal lust for fame and glory carves out a niche character arc that is sure to explode into something unhinged, weird and wonderful as the show goes along.
Nathan Fielder, Emma Stone, and Benny Safdie Are the Heart of the Showtime Series
The sparking moment of the show comes when Dougie spots a young girl (Hikmah Warsame) selling sodas in a parking lot on a hot day. He prompts Asher to go up to her and offer her money so they can get the moment on camera for the show. Much in the Fielder spirit, the moment takes a sour turn as Asher asks for his $100 back because that’s all he had on him at the moment.
The girl — rightfully so — argues back, eventually cursing him. Asher tries to remedy the situation by grabbing $20 from an ATM (which leads to another excruciating social moment where a local asks Asher for his pin number) only to have the girl disappear before he can get the money. Through this sequence, Fielder’s character reveals that he might in fact not know what it means to be a good person, a battle that is just beginning to reach the front lines of his consciousness.
The awkward, if not magical, chemistry between Fielder and Stone is basically the equivalent of someone daring their friend to eat a worm in front of you — you absolutely want to look away, but you just can’t because it is so fascinatingly strange and weird. The Curse casts a large thematic net at the start with the most prominent idea of the show so far being the human fascination with the fabrication of stories, if not life itself.
All of the titular characters — Asher’s sheepish obedience to formulating moments of faux authenticity, Whitney’s oblivious nature to follow in the path of her “slumlord” parents, and Dougie’s fixation on creating edgy content that thrives on moral ambiguity — possess core traits that make this show a fascinating project at the very least.
New Episodes of ‘The Curse’ Air Weekly on Friday
With an Uncut Gems-esque score and Safdie-bent premise (a “good” guy who can’t help himself out of doomful decision-making), The Curse seems to be the perfect amalgamation of the sum of its parts. Sure, most of those parts literally made me squirm in my seat because of how cringy they are, but that’s the point!
Whether it is laughter from the transferable joy of Emma Stone or just the supremely uncomfortable sex scene between her and Nathan Fielder, you may never know. But it doesn’t matter; you’ll tune in for next week’s episode because you need to know what happens next.
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'The Curse' Review'The Curse' Review
- A trio of superstars performing at the top of their game.
- Tackles larger-than-life themes in an awkward, unnerving, yet important manner.
- Long runtime coupled with an awkward nature can make for a tough sit.