Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone‘s new Showtime series, The Curse, arrives this week. Much like The Rehearsal, the series is baffling critics who are having decidedly mixed reactions to the 10-episode series from Fielder and the Safdie Brothers.
The fictional tale centers on a couple who are pushing a home improvement series that basically gentrifies a New Mexico community even though they are adamant that their intentions are pure. Like all things Fielder, The Curse is loaded with awkward, uncomfortable moments whose mileage will definitely vary depending on your threshold for cringe comedy.
Here’s what the critics who enjoyed The Critic are saying:
Ben Travers, IndieWire:
Told over 10 hourlong episodes, “The Curse” puts Fielder’s trademark cringe comedy to magnificent use while evolving his reality-adjacent filmmaking style. The series is painful to watch. Asher, Whitney, and Dougie are embarrassed and embarrassing in equal measure. They’re desperate to be seen as “good” white people, even as they actively gentrify a town defined by its Hispanic and Native American citizens, and their willful ignorance is the source of endless gasps, groans, and guffaws. Some scenes, like when Asher takes advantage of his friendship with a former colleague, could fit seamlessly into episodes of “Nathan for You” or “The Rehearsal.” The comedy and tension stems from how far Asher is willing to go to get what he wants — and how awkward he becomes during the requisite social interactions.
Brianna Zigler, Paste:
It’s a disservice to The Curse to go into it thinking it’s just another funny Nathan Fielder venture, but it’s also unfair to go into it, like I basically did, anticipating Nathan Fielder’s Big Serious Adult Dramatic A24 Show. Once I exchanged the grand Alice Tully theater for my bed and 24-inch Roku television, my initial expectations and feelings on the show changed quite drastically. I found that the agonizing cringe and progressively disquieting nature of the series was really meant to be felt in full force alone in the safety of one’s home. When you’re at your most vulnerable, something about The Curse silently sneaks up on you; like the perniciousness of societal decay under the guise of progress.
Belen Edwards, Mashable:
In a departure from shows like Nathan for Youand The Rehearsal, Fielder is not playing a version of himself but rather an entirely new character. Still, you’ll recognize elements of his prior performances in Asher’s awkward deadpan. He’s a total punching bag for the show, with Flipanthropy focus groups wondering why Whitney would even marry him. That disbelief makes it all the funnier — and uncomfortable, naturally — when Asher inevitably loses his cool. Prepare yourself for some angry, desperate rants from Fielder that will leave you speechless, and some especially inspired physical comedy in later episodes.
Ross Bonaime, Collider:
The Curse is one of the most idiosyncratic shows in recent memory, and an impressive mixture of Safdie, Fielder, and Stone’s comedic sensibilities. Watching this series unfurl and its characters struggle and stumble makes it clear that there’s nothing like it on television. Fielder and Safdie have shown time and time again that they can create unconventional, staggering works, but together, The Curse is peculiar, confounding, and one of the most brilliant comedies of 2023.
And here are the critics, who did not love The Curse and found it to be a confounding experience with no end in sight:
Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone:
The Curse is a show that will go to the most extreme lengths it can to make its point. This means having to face some utterly baffling narrative turns along the way. If this sounds excruciating, it frequently is, perhaps too much for even the most ardent fans of either co-creator. Fielder has, in the past, deployed the awkwardness of his onscreen persona in the service of humor, but The Curse is decidedly not a comedy. And where the Safdies often try to make their audience sweat within a thriller context, this is a much more straightforward drama, where the main source of tension is how far into a given scene it will take for someone to do or say the worst possible thing for that situation.
Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly:
The Curse is cursed with unnecessarily long episode runtimes, as so many premium series are. Part of the bloat stems from Fielder’s penchant for luxuriating in moments of awkwardness, steeping the viewer in their own discomfort long after most shows — even most cringe comedies — would have mercifully cut away. Other scenes just drift along to nowhere, and there’s a sense that Fielder and Safdie had so much admiration for their eclectic ensemble, it was hard for them to kill their proverbial darlings.
Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture:
It’s certainly off-putting, which is clearly what the show wants its audience to feel. If the aim is to create a series that can only be watched through your fingers, though, repeated story beats and uncovered secrets have to feel like they’re moving somewhere. There are so many little pieces of story to get snagged on, things that seem primed to add up to a big calamitous shock. Instead, The Curse keeps circling back on itself, defusing its bombs before they can explode and haphazardly lighting new ones that burn along merrily and then fizzle into a disappointing muted pop.
Dave Nemetz, TVLine:
Stone is a saving grace here: She’s an Oscar winner for a reason, and she crafts a delicate portrait of Whitney as a cheery TV host with a fragile soul, finding subtle ways to let Whitney’s deep discomfort shine through. Fielder, though, takes some getting used to as a dramatic actor. His deadpan sense of humor is well-honed by now, but when he turns serious, we’re left waiting for a punchline that never comes. That’s a great way to sum up The Curse, actually: It has all the elements of a comedy, but it’d rather see us squirm than laugh, which makes it an intriguing but oddly uneven and unsatisfying series.
The Curse premieres November 10 on Showtime.