BIG LITTLE LIES *HBO Original*
Series Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written and created by David E. Kelley
Written and novel by Liane Moriarty
Music Supervisor Susan Jacobs
Cinematography by Yves Bélanger
Film Editing by David Berman, Maxime Lahaie-Denis, Sylvain Lebel, Justin Lachance, Véronique Barbe, and Jim Vega
Casting By David Rubin (1 episode),
Casting assistant Andrea Bunker
Extras casting Rich King and Rob Swanson
Extras casting assistant Jeremy Lambert
Random crew member… Reese Witherspoon’s driver Daniel Davis
Sometimes you watch a show so great, so enthralling, you assume everyone else must be watching it with the same enthusiasm. I figured out one of the important bombshells by the second episode, but had no one to discuss with which to discuss it. After that? Everyone I asked about the mini-series either gave me a blank look or had seen the show mentioned on HBO, but hadn’t really thought about watching it. How was that even possible? Time to write a review.
Big names have been showing up on premium channels and Emmys have been showing the channels’ original movies and shows lots of love, especially HBO, ever since the ACE awards realised its time had come and gone and sadly slipped into its cave. At last count, the premium juggernaut had garnered some 130 nominations. The other premies aren’t happy about that. But, it certainly has been attracting some film stars one wouldn’t expect to see on the small screen.
Who could imagine a project starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgård, and a long list of other Names? Attached to a seven-episode series? Hard to believe. A little easier to believe when you learn that David E. Kelley is the creator. (That should really be a capital “C”.) Once you start to get a couple of those names together others will be interested in taking a look. And having Witherspoon and Kidman exec producing doesn’t hurt, either. It may be one of the least known facts outside of the business that Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore are two of the sharpest producers around and the best at discovering new material to which to snatch up the rights. This though, is Liane Moriarty whose work is well-known, enjoyed the world over and highly regarded, (especially by me). Kidman and Witherspoon, are collaborating again on a project based on her novel TRULY, MADLY, GUILTY, in fact.
What is it about this story that pulled all these silver screen actors away from their film roles? It’s an irresistible book and it’s even more seductive playing out before your eyes with all these beautiful people with their beautiful houses, cars, children, living against the beautiful backdrop of the beaches for Monterey. Ah, a fairy tale life. But, are some of the perfect people from Grimm’s fairy tales, the real ones? Are some of the gingerbread houses being eaten away? Are witches and trolls coming after their beloved children or are they fairies? And do their parents have the magic to protect them from the monsters in the woods? Of, more important, from themselves.
As the tagline says: The perfect life is the perfect lie. Which are the lies, though? Can the truth ever out when everything starts to look like a lie?
Big. Little. The more you press the pedal to the floor, following closer and closer around one deadly cliffside curve after another to the singed paper dolls dancing to the classic R&B and soul, with more songs of the Big dolls’ childhoods constantly on the jukebox for the Little dolls to grow up to, too, you see it’s not really the lies and betrayals. It’s the size of a heart, feet in wet sand on the beach, handprint on an unmarked cheek, time it takes a tear to fall from a chin, distance from one outstretched hand to be enfolded by another. Big parts of us all that we cannot live without and how little it takes to crush us. How little effort is takes to to step in and save the fragile creature in distress and what a big difference it makes.
Big people. Little people. Transgressions. Misdemeanors. Felonies. From the start we know it is a lead-up to something horrible, something that may be murder. What we don’t know? Who is dead and who is “of interest,” as they say now. Though we see snatches of police interviews, it’s obvious that is something we will not know until the very last minute. And it will drive us insane trying to puzzle our puzzler over that.
As you would expect with a cast of such stunning talent, (the performances should decimate the Emmys) actors’ play against type in almost every case. One of my favourite actors, Adam Scott (Ed Mackenzie), Is tougher than audiences have ever seen him, not afraid to take on a man who is right on the bubble of sociopathy, although that is not addressed in the series. Ed’s marriage to Madeline (Witherspoon) is a model of all of the marriages in Big Little Lies: moments of love interspersed with long stretches of tension. Children, schools, extracurricular activities, feuds, friendships, exes — with so much weighing on all of the couples it is no wonder that one silent scene involving in image of pure, private love is so affecting.
Perry (Skarsgård) and Celeste (Kidman). Bonnie (Kravitz) and Nathan (Tupper). Renata (Dern) and Gordon (Nordling. Almost invisible here. Either most of his role is on the curling room floor. Or he has a vampire effect on film.) Jane (Woodley), on her own with her with boy Ziggy (Armitage). And Tom (Cross), on his own with the coffee shop which is the daily meeting place for the central characters: Celeste, Madeline, and the new mom in town, Jane. Almost every revelation takes place here, in deceptively glib chatter and laughter. Many of the darker revelations are homebound.
Big Little Lies. Maybe everyone in Monterey has one. Parents and children. It’s a good bet the jealous, gossipy members of their crowd sounding more and more accusatory with every snippet of interview are happy to cover up their own sins while burying the popular people. But who is dead? And who, who is the monster in this tale?
Even when you learn the answers, you’ll probably find yourself tuning for another dangerous ride on those cliffside rides like me. And here’s a hint: when you what it again, look for little clues, like…oh…Madeline dresses always have a flower pattern. Renata always wears black. Why does everyone went Harambe shit over Bonnie’s musical number? Make of those what you will.