April 14, 2024

EXPATS (2024) – Slow paced and with a bunch of uninteresting characters

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Rating: ⭐ 1/2

These six episodes miniseries was filmed on location in Hong Kong during the Pandemic year 2020. I remember reading the news about how the locals were unhappy with the arrangements which allowed more relaxed rulings on wearing masks for the Hollywood film makers. This background knowledge plus the choice of Hong Kong as a setting, provided some level of curiosity and interest for me to check this series out.

Unfortunately, the series is a disappointment. It is actually a struggle to complete the series as the overall story is poorly written, and none of the characters are interesting enough to warrant any viewer to sympathise or identify with. Nicole Kidman and Sarayu Blue play two American women, Margaret and Hilary, who are living the good life in Hong Kong enjoying their expat benefits. The story is set in 2014 before the pandemic and during the period of street protests by students called the Umbrella Revolution. The plot centers around a family tragedy that befell on Margaret which left a negative impact on the family and people close to them.

While there is fundamentally nothing wrong with the overall story, it was the way it was written and presented that made it an excruciating watch. The pace is deliberately slow and certain vital information to the story is held back which makes you wonder why exactly the characters are behaving the way they do. By the time the facts are finally shared, you will probably be no longer interested. There are also many side characters who take up precious screen time with seemingly standalone subplots that are not directly related to the main story and also left open ended. These scenes can be easily edited out without affecting the flow except maybe provide an improvement in helping to speed things up. Episode 5, the penultimate episode was exceptionally long with a running time of 100 minutes. Instead of providing a strong lead to its finale, it chose to spend most of the time to focus on self-contained side stories involving supporting characters like the Philippino maids, and friends to the main characters.

For a film that calls itself EXPATS, it does little to show the lives of expats living in Hong Kong beyond the endless parties and luxurious lifestyle. Hong Kong never looked so boring on celluloid. You will not get a good idea of the good and bad of life in Hong Kong for a foreigner. In fact, the way the series is made, the location could be anywhere.

Finally, on the performances. While the overall performances of the cast is acceptable, there were no standout performances to rave about. Most disappointing of all is Nicole Kidman’s unremarkable performance as the mother who loses so much in the tragedy. It is truly hard to make out what her character is going through from the generally wooden expression that Kidman gives throughout the show. It ends up just feeling like watching Nicole Kidman “acting” and not actually identifying with the character she plays. Her supporting actress Sarayu Blue as the Indian American expat has a far more dynamic character to play, and I especially liked the scenes where she has some interesting verbal squabbles with her mother.

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