‘Big Little Lies’: Provoking, Honest And Fresh | TV Review
“Sometimes I’m just holding onto this idea of perfection so tight, something has to give”.
As Big Little Lies approaches to its finale, here is to a show that finally tells the truth and it is not pretty! Based on the book by the same name by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies follows three mothers whose lives start to unravel after a murder occurs.
“No. I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets”.
Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is a full-time mom and leads the school theatrical production. A little out of touch with reality, Madeline is obsessed with making things right and goes from vigorously fighting for the rights of her naughty puppets show to destroying a child’s birthday party to defend another.
Constantly “on the go”, it is as if she looking for more drama to fight for. And if her ex husband’s gorgeous and much younger new wife isn’t enough there is always her rebellious teenage daughter, keeping her well occupied and away from home, her husband and her troubles.
“There is a line between passion and rage. Maybe we have crossed it”.
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is the corporate lawyer turned mother of twins, living with her successful banker husband. Effortless beauty, caring mother to her kids and loved by all other mothers, Celeste grows close to perfection and her husband knows it. Consumed by his insecurities, he deems her too beautiful, too good and too successful and abuses her. Still Celeste wonders if it might be her fault? Does she maybe even enjoy it?
“I have told you the story so many times. You don’t have a dad”.
Freshly arrived in Monterey, young Jane (Shailene Woodley) and her little boy are already at the centre of a school scandal. Sweet Ziggy is accused of bullying another little girl. Madeline and Celeste gladly take Jane under their wing and soon discover what is behind Jane’s sudden arrival. Left pregnant by her rapist, Jane was left emotionally closed off and refuses to discuss Ziggy’s father with him.
Nothing much seems to happen in sunny and seemingly peaceful Monterrey. But Director of Photography, Yves Belanger, does a great job rapidly filling the screen with dreamy views of Del Monte beach, Pacific Grove and Big Sur, making way for the hidden secrets to slowly emerge from one episode to another.
We start off with a murder but as the last episode is fast approaching, we are not getting any closer to knowing anything about either the victim or the killer. The show alternates between flashbacks of the lives of the lead female characters with scenes of interviewed neighbours for the on going-investigation.
The three women are closely inspected, analyzed and scrutinized. And as we slowly get to know each of these women from their point of view and their neighbours’, it becomes clear that each holds enough evidence to be either victim or killer.
Big Little Lies is much less about a murder than it is about exploring the self-destructive patterns and power struggles between mothers, couples and children. Sure, vomiting on an ex-husband’s new wife, keeping a gun under a pillow around a sleepwalking child and even breaking a man’s urethra could count as irrational behavior.
But Celeste, Madeline and Jane are complex characters, full of contradictions, suffocating with internal conflicts and impossible crisis in their very own home. Big Little Lies does not shy away for exposing delicate issues without rushing to its resolution. Instead it goes much deeper into the dynamics of the conflicts and its many, at times ugly, twists and turns.
Big Little Lies could have easily been a Desperate Housewives reboot set in Monterey Bay or a simple entertaining murder mystery but it is neither. It is provoking, honest and fresh. Lifted by powerful performances by both female leads and secondary cast. Nicole Kidman‘s portrayal of Celeste’s slow and aching process of denial and self reflection over her husband’s abuse is brutal and terrific.
Running with determination or running away? Does it make a different if we are still holding on to the “big little lies” we tell ourselves, just to survive ?
Big Little Lies, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, also star Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgård. The show premiered on HBO on February 19 and on March 13 in the UK. The final episode aired yesterday (April 2).
“Sometimes that’s the essence of a happy marriage, isn’t it? The ability to pretend”.
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