We admit a month ago having known v. little about HBO‘s new series BIG LITTLE LIES, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. Since discovering it though, we’re helplessly hooked. We have previewed the first six of seven episodes and cruelly were left hanging at the end of it. It consumed us fully this weekend and it’s been on our mind all day.
The seven-part series follows the lives of three mothers in Monterey, California as they cope with family-life balance, each facing their own unique demons. We have Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), a well-to-do stay at home mom of two, invested in a local theatre production of Avenue Q much to the disapproval of the local mayor and conservative locals. Celeste (Nicole Kidman), a lawyer-on-hiatus, has a seemingly-perfect life too with twin boys, a gorgeous house and a handsome husband in Perry (Alex Skarsgård). Enter to the picture, mysterious single mother Jane (Shailene Woodley) and her son who are new to the area, drawn to its affordable private school education at a public school cost. Things begin to unravel one day at school when Jane’s son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) is accused of hurting Renata’s (Laura Dern) daughter Anabella (Ivy George). This ignites what becomes a rampant fire as we see these mothers go to all costs to protect their children. Passions flare as Celeste and Madeline rally to support their new friend Jane and the consequences are well, fatal. As the story unfolds we get eyewitness accounts, some less reliable than others, and we learn the deep, dark secrets each of our three leading women are harbouring, leading them together to where they are today. Who dies? Why? Who did it? How? We have so many questions.
Canada’s very own Jean-Marc Vallée does a phenomenal job at the reins here and while BIG LITTLE LIES at times is a bit of a meditative slow-burn, we nonetheless are invested every step of the way. Our characters are richly-developed, complex, aware, intelligent and multi-dimensional. Nothing is ever just black or white with them, there is a rather large, beautifully-messy gray area. Domestic violence, consent, sexuality, infidelity are just some of the meaty matters the series examines with great depth and it leaves us with plenty to think about.
Although Witherspoon’s brand has become synonymous with being Elle Woods and Rom-Coms like Sweet Home Alabama, we really love her pairing with Vallée which as we saw in Oscar-nominated WILD, has given her a real opportunity to shine as a dramatic force. Kidman seldom disappoints and she has shown that when she is in full-control of her output (remember the outstanding Rabbit Hole?), as she is here serving with Witherspoon as Executive Producers, she is devastatingly good. We also really enjoy Woodley’s work as Jane, careful never to give too much away about her character as one of the story’s most fascinating aspects. And we love LauraDern in a performance that is worthy of top-billing, as a woman on fire in the deeply-angry Renata.
See a Tease:
HBO Canada airs BIG LITTLE LIESSunday, February 19, 2017 at 9 PM EST.