Review: Welcome to Monterey, California! It’s a beautiful beachside city where first-grader public school orientation might lead to a murder on parents’ trivia night. Neither victim nor the murderer is revealed; but, when we trace a further back, there’s a series of big little lies masterminding the eventual murder. And, that’s how we start Big Little Lies.
Adapted from phenomenal novel by Australian author, Liane Moriarty, this HBO’s mini-series – written by David E. Kelley and directed in its entirety by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) – unravels an unsettling parental drama in the light of blurry crime-mystery. Instead of ‘asking’ audiences to get invested to the murder mystery, Big Little Lies focuses more on its characters – their parental lives, their scandals, their darkest secrets and the meaning of cause and consequences – delivered with stellar performance by top-tier casts.
This series centers on the lives of local parents, more accurately, mothers, who might be dealing with the eventual murder. Big Little Lies burst out with surprising news in the beginning, before properly introducing the series’ ultimate moms and culminating ‘its beginning’ in a harrowingly explosive feud that starts all the mess. In aftermath of the ‘first-day of school’ accident, the storm calms down but stinging ripples wash woe ashore. In a slow-burn 5 following episode (including the penultimate), we dig deeper into the characters’ life as we dive through their household and awkward social life.
The tight knot to all red thread in Big Little Lies is Madeleine Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) the dominatrix; she’s a part-time playwright, a full-time socialite, and mother to a teenage girl and a first-grader, which is the reason why she’s entangled in this story. When she’s pregnant with her first child, her former husband, Nathan (James Tupper) left and married another woman, Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz); therefore, Madeleine remarries with Ed Mackenzie (Adam Scott).
Madeleine befriends a former lawyer, Celeste (Nicole Kidman), a wife to a successful businessman, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), and a mother of twins who go to the same school as Madeline’s youngest daughter. And, before the calamitous first day of school, she also befriends a young single mother, Jane (Shaylene Woodley), whose son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage) is accused of bullying a daughter of an influential mother, Renata Klein (Laura Dern), during the orientation.
It’s a rare show where children become a key to the whole conflict, which apparently goes out of control in the end. Children’s perspectives are addressed as a testimony, which can be manipulated by adults to personally attack each other. From this issue alone, Big Little Lies points out a direct criticism to parents’ over-obsessive expectation towards children, manipulating their childhood world and enforcing their will to their ‘ideal child’ dreams. The further we delve into those characters; we begin to understand that such circumstances might be real; and it’s a real world problem, too. But, have we anticipated that things might go out of control?
With magnetic performance from Kidman (who deserves an Emmy for her role as Celeste) and Witherspoon as well as Vallée’s slick direction, which probes more sympathy, Big Little Lies ventures as an addictive, offbeat drama. Wrapped with cool soundtracks, ambient cinematography and effective editing, this slow-burn drama bursts out in the beginning, goes bitterly calm in the middle, and ends with a spectacular salvo. It’s highly addictive, after all.
Big Little Lies (2017) – Mini-series
Drama, Crime, Mystery Created by: David E. Kelley Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée based on a book by Liane Moriarty Starred by: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgård, Zoë Kravitz Network: HBO No. of Episodes: 7 Runtime: 60 mins