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The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

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Nathan Fielder is taken to new heights in ‘The Curse’

A genre-bending cringe comedy show leaves its mark
Fair+use+from+Showtime
Fair use from Showtime

Not very many shows can make me legitimately uncomfortable, but comedian Nathan Fielder has a knack for producing awkward interactions with strangers in unscripted shows like “Nathan For You” and “The Rehearsal.” Fielder’s newest TV show in which he stars, “The Curse,” is his first scripted drama, where cringey scenarios are deliberately written into each scene rather than encountered by chance.

The show is co-written and co-starred by Benny Safdie, most well-known for his work in films such as “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems.” Going in, I was a bit anxious to see how the move to a scripted show and the introduction of another writer might impact Fielder’s iconic style, but I’m happy to say that these factors in “The Curse” actually elevated his sharp commentary on modern society, and the sense of realism and tension in this work of fiction made for one of the most unique and captivating shows in recent memory.

“The Curse” takes place in Española, New Mexico, where the newlywed couple Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney (Emma Stone) start making an environmentally-conscious home improvement show that teeters on the edge of being labeled gentrification. Although their main focus for the show is on improving peoples’ lives, Dougie (Benny Safdie), the morally-questionable producer, pushes the couple to artificially create drama in their relationship to drive up the show’s ratings. Through the chaos of making the controversial show, Asher is cursed; relationships are tested and friendships are broken as the couple try to maintain their public image.

One can’t talk about “The Curse” without mentioning the stellar performances all across the board. It was crucial that every character felt both gritty and real for this show to work, and all the actors pulled that balancing act off perfectly. To no one’s surprise, Stone did an astounding job at portraying Whitney, a horrible person who cares more about being perceived as a good person than actually doing good things. Safdie, who I learned has extensive acting experience in addition to writing and directing, did an incredible job at playing Dougie, a somewhat sympathetic schmuck.

Fielder, who has little experience playing characters other than himself, held his own against Stone and Safdie’s strong performances, especially in tense scenes with heavy acting. While he isn’t the best actor in the world, I was deeply impressed with his range and often taken aback by the sight of Fielder expressing genuine emotion in a dramatic role. By the end of the show, I forgot that Asher was a character played by Fielder because of how invested I got into his story and convincing performance.

The writing for “The Curse” is absolutely top-notch. Fielder and Safdie knocked it out of the park by combining their unique styles — awkward, surrealist reality and tense, realistic fiction, respectively — and making each scene feel the awkwardness and tension building upon one another seamlessly. The characters are complex and interesting, each piece of dialogue written extremely well and the overall plot is ensnaring through each unpredictable twist and turn.

A big focus in the writing is its social commentary. I found “The Curse” has a great perspective on people only concerned with their perception by society, and delves into what it truly means to be a good person. There are a lot of hard-hitting topics such as racism, class disparity and colonialism that are tackled in a uniquely blunt, honest way. Although some will likely hate it for its candid, gritty portrayal of America, I found “The Curse” to have very strong messaging and a lot of significant thematic elements that shine through even when scenes seem not to serve the overall plot.

“The Curse” doesn’t neatly fit into any genre because it borrows elements from so many. Safdie’s signature buildup of tension seems to constantly rise throughout an episode, which is why some might consider the show a thriller, but it needs somewhere to go for the audience to stay attentive. This is where Fielder’s comedy comes in. Although it is significantly more sparing in “The Curse” than any of his other shows, the use of comedy is masterful to break tension in key moments and make some otherwise unbearable scenes more engaging and interesting. The comedic elements are easily the most enjoyable moments of the show, and elevate its already great story and characters to an even higher level when it’s employed.

Overall, “The Curse” is a very polarizing, yet rewarding show when given a chance. It’s not exactly an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it very compelling and had a great time engaging with its concept, characters, story and themes. While it starts off slow, the show builds up to an immense crescendo and ends in the most bizarre and memorable season finale of any show I’ve ever seen (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). “The Curse” is one of Nathan Fielder’s best works, and an absolute must-watch for any fan of his. After watching such a thought-provoking show, I’m left wanting more. Fielder’s comedy style surprisingly translates well to fiction, so I’m eager to watch anything else he makes. Now that the curse has been lifted, I wait in anticipation for Nathan Fielder’s next masterpiece.

“The Curse”: ★★★★★

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About the Contributor
Alex Geretz, In-Depth Editor
Hey guys, I’m Alex, a senior in my third year on Echo :3 This year, I’m the In-Depth Editor, meaning I’ll be cranking out some awesomely thorough articles for each issue. Contrary to my imposingly professional demeanor, I’m a funny guy but… down to earth. When I’m not knees-deep editing articles for In-Depth, you might catch me biking, playing piano, or even watching a Marvel movie! I’m excited to bring some stupendous stories to Echo this year!

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