HBO’s Big Little Lies: Part Soap Opera, Part Mystery, All Fun

Big Little Lies premiered on HBO on Sunday February 18, 2017 and it is sure to garner plenty of attention. Based on a best-selling novel by Liane Moriarty and starring Hollywood heavyweights, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern the show while not revolutionary, is well executed and deliciously mischievous.

At the heart of the story is Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Witherspoon). She knows how things should be, and is willing to do what it takes to make things work out that way. She wants fairness and justice. She meddles with Her daughter’s school, and manipulates peoples’ perspectives to get things the way that she thinks they should be. Her best friend, Celeste (Nicole Kidman), lives like a Greek goddess in a mansion on the water with two perfect boys and a Ken doll husband. She is ever present but coolly disengaged. Jane,(Shailene Woodley) moves to town and unlike the other “dress for success,” glamour haired moms, she seeks comfort with baggy clothes, short hair tied back and no trace of make-up. She’s a single mom and lives for her son, Ziggy.

(Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman)

This ill-fitted group of heroines, while they consider each other best friends, in many ways barely know each other. In fact, although theirs is a community where people are constantly digging into other’s business and judging, no one seems to know much about anyone’s actual lives. One of these women is emotionally distant to her husband, one is haunted by a recurring vision and one is engaged in a violent, dangerous game of sex and co-dependence with her husband.

Madeline pits people against each other for sport. Working moms v. stay at home moms; her ex-husband against her current husband; even her teen daughter against herself. She thrives on the diversion of minutiae and in so doing is blind to bigger issues around her. When the moms arrive at school to pick up their children after the first day of first grade, Ziggy is accused of hurting Super Mom Renata’s daughter. Renata (Laura Dern) is a high-power executive with PayPal and Madeline’s nemesis. Ziggy claims innocence and Jane assures that her son isn’t a liar. Thus, begins a he-said-she-said kerfuffle that ripples into much larger issues.

Set in Monterrey, California, the episodes are crisp and visually stunning with breathtaking homes and settings. Even Jane’s stark home is enviably cozy and the quick peeks of a bigger crime lurking behind the story tugs at the viewer whenever you forget that it’s coming

Director Jean-Marc Vallèe swirls between clips of the community talking to police at depositions, and a traditional unwinding narrative that affectively floats viewers along with the story, helping us understand the myriad perspectives that can make simple confrontations become holy wars.

*This piece was written by me for and originally published on Once Upon a Twilight*

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