When Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) take a new single mom under their wing, a one Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), nobody could see how the arrival of this unsuspecting outsider would impact them and their community. When her son Ziggy is accused of strangling the daughter of the local one-woman mob Renata Klein (Laura Dern), everything changes. Big Little Lies is a brilliant portrayal of playground politics, classroom crimes, the awkwardness between the wife and the ex, but also between their husbands. And what are lies? We all tell them to survive, and what looks harmless can become its own wild animal indeed.
Boy oh boy, again we have Hollywood A-listers going to television over film: Nicole Kidman (Lion), Shailene Woodley (Snowden), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Zoe Kravitz (First Class). Honestly, I’d prefer to watch A-listers on TV. Big Little Lies continues on the goodness of Feud. They’re related in the fact that they show what women will do to survive, and that human nature doesn’t differentiate between genders. Though, we are not on the set of Baby Jane with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis anymore, with their mother of all feuds. We are in the homes of soccer moms, docile dads and their kids, and it’s so damn entertaining!
Other than Wild and Mud, I have yet to see a Reese Witherspoon performance that I liked. Then Big Little Lies’ Madeline Mackenzie happened. Honestly, between her, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman, our leading ladies had their fair share of the spotlight. Lest not forget to mention Laura Dern who has truly taken a leaf our of Joan Crawford’s book in lessons on how to play “The Bitch”. But Witherspoon stole every scene she was in and I really enjoyed her character. From her domestics with her husband to defending her friends and knocking Renata Klein’s privilege for six, there isn’t really a side of her that I didn’t like. Moral of the story: Reese needs to do more drama.
Based on the novel Big Little Lies by Liane Moriary, this is a dark tale of murder and very black comedy in the beach town of Montrery. Think Broadchurch / The Killing meets a mature Pretty Little Liars / Desperate Housewives (in the best way, if that’s possible). This puts Hollywood’s beautiful people’s club on display. The Skarsgård-Kidman double act is interesting, but the overtly perceptive perfection of their marriage comes at a cost, in the form of covert abuse disguised as “foreplay” for the first half of the season. Amidst domestic squabbles between parents and beautiful kids, lies a community run on rumours and maybes. And like in life, the truth will out in the end. It always does.
Told from the perspective of three moms (Kidman, Woodley and Witherspoon), the series dives deep into society’s narratives surrounding perfect families and its romanticising of marriage, sex, parenthood, friendship, the family unit and their values. The mothers of Montrery show that it takes a village to keep a secret. Big Little Lies follows shows like Fargo, Broadchurch and Twin Peaks in the sense that small towns and villages can accept acts of awfulness as normal because it eventually becomes routine. When you’ve got characters like the Mother’s Grimm Renata Klein running things, society succumbs to the fear of what will happen if the natural order is disrupted.
Shailene Woodley is part of this brand of actor who gets a lot of hate due to being part of a “bad franchise” which put their name out there. Kirsten Stewart (The Twilight Saga) is another one who has the same stigma. Twilight and Divergent have their own fanbases and aren’t universally liked by all. Yet, both actresses have proven their mettle since. Stewart has gone onto to do great things like Still Alice, Café Society, Personal Shopper and American Ultra. I personally like the Divergent series but Woodley has also done Oliver Stone’s Snowden opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) and I know she will go on to do many great projects in the foreseeable future.
Big Little Lies is crime drama meets chick flick. From the cast to the cinematography to that stellar intro (one of my favourites since The Wire), this show is perfection. HBO continue to prove why they’re still one of best networks in the last fifteen years and why other networks struggle to keep up with their pace and consistently high quality of television programme.