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Expats - Season 1 - Review

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People Talk, Hong Kong is Small

Nicole Kidman plays Margaret Woo, a loving mother living a life of luxury in Hong Kong who had lost her son in the streets one night and was never heard from again. Supporting the A-list actor is a great cast in the form of Sarayu Blue, playing Hilary Starr, Brian Tee as Margaret's Husband, and Ji-Young Yoo as Mercy Cho. Their character's lives are interwoven with one another as they struggle to deal with the outcome of their choices, while in the background of the Umbrella Movement Protest happening in the city.

Based on Janice Y. K. Lee's book 'The Expatriates', the story follows the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy foreign nationals living in the small but populated cityscape of Hong Kong. Though the outlook is mostly through the eyes of the socialites, we are given glimpses on the ordinary lives surrounding them. For the review, I will be giving my critique on the players of the part and not the narrative for now, focusing the majority on its heavy hitter, Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Kidman's Star Waning In Luster

There are other notable supporting casts that have earned well deserved praises but having an A-list celebrity leading the charge for the series Expat, dissecting her performance needs to be thoroughly examined. After all, Kidman is duly responsible for getting the audience's attention to the show in the first place.

What can I say about her performance? Serviceable at best? Probably. Although that would probably be blamed on the script or directing. I cannot properly distinguish her emotional range as she drags on every scene with the same facial expression. Manageable. That's the word. She is manageable in every scene. There was no depth nor was it shallow. Acting for the sake to move the plot along. Which is devastating, to have that premise of a broken mother trying to find answers should have been an award-winning portrayal. Yet, it got increasingly boring as the show ended. 

I'm not as much as disappointed, but rather felt betrayed by the lack of performance on Kidman's part. It felt like a bait-and-switch type of deal. The plot itself is an intriguing story, yet she failed to gather any sympathy from her viewers with the performance she's doing.

Connected Through Tragedy

The whole series of Expat is a great example of dealing with loss. The aftermath of a heinous kidnapping is a very appealing concept for a plot, but I really don't get how it could have been made so dull and unengaging. There were few rotating characters in this ensemble yet only a few stand out to take the lead, even the most well-known of them, Nicole Kidman. The material is there, the concept is riveting and should have provided the platform for a well executed performance yet the acting remained mediocre at best. 

Through sheer will and perseverance I've managed to finish this series. All six episodes felt like a begrudgingly arduous task to accomplish yet I've managed to come out the other side. I also didn't know how they have made the cityscape of Hong Kong looked boring. I've been there almost a dozen times and yet when I see the city in Expat's lens, it felt lifeless. Apart from the fifth episode where they tackled the daily lives of their servants. Yes, not domestic helpers or whatnot, but the upper-class' servants. That is how they were depicted. A high and valuable life of a socialite mingling with other socialites when tragedy had beset among their kin. I didn't know you can make that boring and a chore to watch. It felt disconnected as they try to push the narrative of rich-people problems.

Final thoughts? I wasted my time watching this. But if you'd still like to watch it, be my guest. I couldn't get those hours back in my life so I'm saving you the trouble.

About the Author - Alvin Asiaten
Alvin is a multifaceted creative who finds inspiration in binge-watching various TV series and immersing himself in the world of video games. As a skilled graphic illustrator and video editor, he brings his unique vision to perspective and is well informed in the art of captivating visuals and storytelling.
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