Why you should be watching Big Little Lies
Victoria Russell | On 10, Apr 2017
When teasers and billboards started surfacing of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon looking rather distrustful in an upcoming drama, it was hard not to be immediately interested – what are two Oscar-winners doing in a new TV series? There was instant intrigue circulating among film fans, as it was unveiled that Kidman and Witherspoon would be starring alongside fellow Oscar nominee Laura Dern and acclaimed rising star Shailene Woodley in a one-off HBO mini-series. This is what television has been waiting for.
Big Little Lies follows a group of mothers and residents of beautiful Monterey, California, whose children all attend the same school. Witherspoon’s no-nonsense wife, Madeline Mackenzie, is a mother of two who spends much of her time in the midst of rivalry with her ex-husband and his new, younger, hippy wife (played by Zoe Kravitz). In addition, after 5-year-old Ziggy, the son of Woodley’s Jane, is accused of hurting the daughter of Renata (Dern) on his first day at a new school, Madeline battles against the fellow Monterey mother as she believes something about the incident is somewhat fishy. Jane, meanwhile, who has recently moved in a bid to leave behind her dark past, is welcomed warmly by Madeleine and her best friend, Celeste (Kidman), and the trio embark on a newfound, trustworthy friendship.
While Big Little Lies deems to be focused on the tribulations and politics of motherhood, there is more to the HBO series than meets the eye. Madeleine is homemaker to her two daughters – the eldest from her previous marriage – but it is evident that she is unfulfilled in her new relationship with her husband (Adam Scott). On the contrary, Celeste is constantly the talk of the town, due to her perfect beauty, her perfect intellect and her perfect family, made up of 6-year-old twins and her insanely handsome husband, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård. However, despite perceptions of a pretty-as-a-picture existence on the outside, we slowly learn that something wicked this way comes in Celeste’s private life.
And, in between all these glossed-over personal dramas, a murder has taken place.
As well as featuring a stellar female leading cast, the talent continues behind the camera, with Dallas Buyers’ Club’s Jean-Marc Vallée taking the director’s chair and David E. Kelley – the mogul behind Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and LA Law – penning the scripts (adapted from Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel). Both Witherspoon and Kidman immediately looked to option the book after falling in love with it, and while both of their production companies were in competition, the actors decided to work on the project together.
Big Little Lies is something of a requirement in today’s entertainment world: the mini-series is becoming something of a past ritual but now more than ever is the perfect time to explore the refreshing and concise art form again. With cinema screaming for more diverse, interesting female roles to take centre stage, meanwhile, there’s an endless understanding as to why Oscar-winning and talented actresses are taking to TV, where there is more room for characters like these to evolve.
In addition to an A-list cast, crew and an intriguing narrative, there is an element to Big Little Lies that is heightened by its astute and somewhat modest persona. The series minorly mirrors previous shows, such as Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City, but the quality of these characters feels more refined. It is safe to say that audiences have never seen Kidman is such a vulnerable yet provocative role – one which is hard to watch at times. Though her wig and accent is at times questionable, it is refreshing to see the Oscar-winner is such a tumultuous and hazardous state. The same could be said for Woodley, who is undoubtedly wise beyond her years, while Dern explores the complexities and pressures of femininity that recalls her previous roles in Wild at Heart and Enlightened. However, it is Witherspoon who steals the show and has never been so mesmerising, proving once again that she can take any average Joe and make them authentic, relatable and three-dimensional.
And, while we become fascinated by the strong, complicated women and their convoluted relationships, there is still a murderer on the loose, and every indication that all three women are easily capable of something as inhumane as homicide. At the time of writing, UK TV audiences are just past the mid-way point in the seven episodes. The tension is killing us.
Big Little Lies is on at 9pm on Sky Atlantic every Monday. Don’t have Sky? You can also watch Big Little Lies online live and on-demand through NOW TV, which costs £6.99 a month, no contract.