Up until Thursday night, New York Film Festival had never once featured a TV show on its annual premiere lineup, so when Benny Safdie approached NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim with a new series he created alongside Nathan Fielder, the likelihood that it would get a big-screen premiere was low.
But Lim gave it a chance, and after he finished the fifth episode he knew he had to figure out how to make something work.
“[Benny] was like, ‘Why don’t you take a look and see what you think?’” Lim recalled at the series’ NYFF world premiere at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Thursday night, where Safdie and Fielder were in attendance. “So he sent me three episodes, I watched them right away and I said, ‘I need 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.’”
“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen this year,” Lim continued, just before the lights dimmed for its 8:30 p.m. showing. “Everything about ‘The Curse‘ screams cinema to me.”
The A24 and Showtime series is a satirical take on house-flipping and home improvement shows found on cable TV. Fielder and Stone play a newly married couple, Asher and Whitney — likely inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer-Upper” — who are the hosts of a house-flipping TV show. However, their lives and careers are turned upside down after they become cursed by a child during a staged photo op.
The first episode kicks off with the couple’s latest plan, which is to flip houses and convert them into eco-friendly homes for the struggling residents of Española, New Mexico, all for their new reality show being overseen by an ingratiating producer (Safdie) with demons of his own.
“It’s as brilliant, wild, perverse, embarrassing, uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing as you would expect,” Lim said.
“The Curse” will premiere on streaming and on-demand for Paramount+ with Showtime subscribers on Nov. 10, but episodes 4–10 will also be screened at Film at Lincoln Center during the show’s run.