THE CURSE (2023)
Aired On: Showtime.
Release Date: 11/10/23 - 01/12/24.
Comedy. Drama. Thriller.
"A newlywed couple struggle to make their vision for eco-living a reality in a small New Mexico town."
A perfect storm has collided off the shores of television; beyond the beaches of the prestigious, the trademark cosmic chaos of Benny Safdie and the maddening awkwardness of Nathan Fielder have combined to give us something of an anomaly; even regarding the pairs’ separate bodies of work. At its core, The Curse is a social-satire that follows an affluent newlywed couple in their production of their HGTV show taking place in an impoverished New Mexico town. There’s clear themes and commentary to point out on gentrification and exploitation; however, for the ten weeks that The Curse had aired, there was something much more sinister boiling up underneath. Something that made me feel like my head was going to explode. Something that made the show feel like it was something we shouldn’t be watching at all.
Within this small town of Espanola, New Mexico, Asher and Whitney Siegel (Fielder and Stone) have chosen to make the town their oyster in debuting their new show on HGTV. With the help of their producer Dougie (Benny Safdie), they set out to explore their new homes and help the town in a new show that they hope to be a hit. However behind the scenes of the show, it seems the three are doing anything, but that. The three constantly impose themselves onto the town, one instance even having Asher dawn the titular and daunting curse. In the 10 episodes we follow the Siegel’s they’re constantly attempting to save face, and sometimes consider if they’re even helping the town.
Then, however, there’s something underneath everything that gives The Curse a deeper layer to it. With the Siegels facing cameras for their new show, our lens is as if we’re spying on the Siegels, what they do behind closed doors and just how this supposed curse messes with their lives. The cinematography is very stripped back, highly exposed, and distant. We’re observing this couple as we’re feeling somewhat helpless in getting anything out of their destructive wake. Not only that, we’re exposed to every flaw and cracks in this relationship, and at times, it feels we see only ugly sides. Stone and Fielder are absolutely electric here in portraying this couple. The awkward charm of Fielder’s comedy and screen presence is paired excellently with Emma Stone’s dramatic and comedic tendencies.
Then lies the question: what is the curse in The Curse? The question itself makes the show itself feel cursed itself as if we're given forbidden access to these people’s lives. Not just the Siegels but the entire town of Espanola itself. The titular curse is given to Fielder mid-pilot, and through its 10 episodes, it's never exactly clear what this curse is, just the consequences that It reaps for the Siegels. It's wonderful, and maddening television. Both Fielder and Safdie both evolve their own work to a fantastic amalgam of form and commentary that makes you feel like your head is going to explode every episode. Not only one of the best shows to end 2023 on; it's quite possibly my top show of 2023.