Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Nathan Fielder’s ‘The Curse’ is bizarrely intriguing

A combination of surrealism and social commentary are the backbone of A24’s newest project, ‘The Curse’
Courtesy of IMDb

Created and written by comedian Nathan Fielder and “Uncut Gems” co-director Benny Safdie, “The Curse” is the strangest A24 lovechild to hit television in years. The “Nathan for You” actor, known for his signature painful awkwardness combines his creativity to craft an utterly fascinating Showtime limited series.

The story follows Whitney Siegel (Emma Stone), an egomaniacal white savior who flips homes in Española, N.M., and Asher Siegel (Fielder), her doting “jester” husband – making for one cringeworthy couple.

Thanks to gentrification Whitney’s parents perpetuated, the small town’s native people have been pushed out, earning her family the title of slumlords. To right this wrong, Whitney and Asher pitch an HGTV show that promotes and highlights native tribes in the area along with building new, sustainable homes to drive in new residents. Whitney’s homes are surreal, with the outside of the homes featuring mirrors on every available surface.

As the HGTV show is produced, we see the “perfect” couple deteriorate and pick at each other, creating a tense and strenuous situation between the two. Fielder particularly has an astounding performance, breaking away from his awkward and absurdist “self” character into a new deranged and insecure man. Stone’s character slowly descends into a madness that is both shocking and uncomfortable.

Safdie’s character Dougie, an extremely troubled television producer and Asher’s childhood bully-turned-friend, ends up pitting the couple against each other for the sake of good television. We see Dougie repeatedly take jabs at Asher, who brushes them off for the most part. There are times when Fielder’s doormat character snaps and becomes aggressive, giving him a much darker side to his seemingly shallow character.

“The Curse” has a plethora of small yet interesting details scattered throughout the series, many providing social commentary through a whitewashed satirical lens. The characters are insufferable, blind and strained, convinced that they are gifts to the modern world. In typical Fielder fashion, the series is based on cringe-inducing moments that produce this haggard, only worsening relationship.

Why is it called “The Curse?”

Throughout the series, the characters are often cited as being cursed or having some sort of karmic power working against them. Asher gets “cursed” by a little girl in the first few episodes of the show after pretending to give her a 100 dollar bill for the sake of his television show. After giving the girl the money with the camera rolling, he snatches it back and promises to give her money. The girl curses Asher, who does not think much of it at first.

Over time, Asher becomes infatuated with the idea of the girl cursing him and believes she has real capabilities to do so. Dougie believes he is cursed as well, after he killed his wife in a drunk driving accident. Safdie’s character is extremely complex as his backstory is revealed over time, and as more is shown of Asher and Dougie’s relationship, we eventually see Dougie curse Asher as well.

Are the curses real? We cannot know for sure, but through a series of strange occurrences, the audience is left to ponder — is there ever such a thing as a coincidence?

What was that ending?

Without giving too many spoilers, the ending of “The Curse” was extremely out of left field. As you make your way through the series, the viewer can guess how the show will end. Maybe the Siegels will break up, maybe one of them will break down, or maybe the couple will continue to ignore the issues going on between them.

While these would all make sense given the direction of the show thus far, I can assure you, you will never be able to guess how the show ends. Many have criticized the ending of the series due to its irreverent and nonsensical nature. Other viewers have commended the creativity featured in the final 10th episode, saying it is one of the most shocking television show endings seen in years.

But however you feel about the ending, it is undeniably strange and unbecoming. Safdie and Fielder have managed to create something never seen before, particularly in a television series, that leaves viewers dumbfounded. For the incredible acting performances and even the ending alone, I urge you to try something new and watch “The Curse.”

Olivia Baier can be reached at [email protected].

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