‘The Curse’ Premiere Casts a Spell on NYFF, with Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie in the Audience
ManOfTheCenturyMovie News ‘The Curse’ Premiere Casts a Spell on NYFF, with Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie in the Audience

‘The Curse’ Premiere Casts a Spell on NYFF, with Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie in the Audience

‘The Curse’ Premiere Casts a Spell on NYFF, with Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie in the Audience

It’s not often prestigious organizations invite damnation, misfortune, or any kind of bad luck onto themselves — let alone their renowned festival and its thousands of guests — but for Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie, exceptions will be made.

“The Curse” held its world premiere at the New York Film Festival Thursday night, with both co-creators in attendance for the first TV series to ever premiere at NYFF. Fielder, Safdie, and Emma Stone (who did not attend) executive produce and co-star in Showtime‘s upcoming black comedy — about a trio of creatives behind an aspiring HGTV home-renovation series — which had audiences laughing and gasping throughout the three-hour screening.

Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director, did warn the crowd (as best he could) during his opening remarks.

“(‘The Curse‘) is as brilliant, wild, perverse, hilarious, uncomfortable, and anxiety-inducing as you’d expect,” he said, alluding to Fielder (“The Rehearsal,” “Nathan For You”) and Safdie’s (“Uncut Gems,” “Good Time”) previous works.

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Indeed, the initial three episodes of “The Curse” feature loads of cringe comedy, as expected from two of the genre’s great artists, while also fleshing out a dramatic marriage story and complex, often intense, individual arcs. Asher (Fielder) and Whitney (Stone) are approaching their one-year wedding anniversary and already making big plans. The camera-friendly couple wants to bring sustainable living to small-town New Mexico, and they aim to star in their own HGTV show while doing it. Between Whitney’s eco-friendly designs and Asher’s steady accrual of local properties, there’s plenty of goodwill and potential built into their pitch.

But an interview with a local news crew quickly pokes holes in their practical plans (and self-touted benevolence) and things only continue unraveling from there, as Asher and Whitney struggle to adhere to the TV-friendly image their family’s dreams demand. With Safdie playing a blatantly unprincipled producer — secretly recording conversations, staging scenes, and even provoking his colleagues to stir up onscreen drama — the series takes an uncensored look at the damage caused by people inserting themselves where they don’t belong, for reasons good, well-intentioned, and blatantly wrong.

Lim said Safdie wrote to him in May 2023, asking for NYFF to consider “The Curse” for the festival.

“I said, ‘Well, we don’t actually have a section for television at the New York Film Festival,’” Lim said. “He was like, ‘Well, why don’t you take a look and see what you think?’ He sent me three episodes. I watched them right away and said I needed to see more. By the time I got to Episode 5 or 6, I called Benny and said, ‘We need to figure out how to make this work.’”

Lim said he and Safdie discussed a number of ideas for the premiere, including “an all-night marathon” of the entire 10-episode first season.

“This was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen this year,” Lim said. “Everything about ‘The Curse’ screams cinema to me. Many people won’t watch it in that way, but given how this is written, acted, directed, edited, scored, I think it needs to be seen on the big screen and as a collective, communal experience. So it was really important for us to try to make this happen, and I’m very pleased that we could.”

For those who share Lim’s viewing preference, Film at Lincoln Center will host screenings of “The Curse” throughout the first season. Presented “in two-episode blocks” and held at the Walter Reade Theater, Lim announced weekly screenings will take place before the episodes premiere each Sunday on Showtime.

“The Curse” will be released Friday, November 10 on Paramount+ with Showtime before making its on-air debut Sunday, November 12 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. Until then, here are some early reactions from its NYFF premiere. (Formal reviews are embargoed until a later date.)

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