HOLLYWOOD—I normally like to allow myself several episodes of a show before recommending it to others. I mean the pilot episode can be good, but things can shift afterwards. However, this past weekend, I binge watched the first 5 episodes of the HBO limited-series “Big Little Lies.” The TV series is an adaptation of the popular novel by Liane Moriarty.
Now, I’ve been known to spoil the big revelation by searching online; I did that with “Pretty Little Liars” because I just needed to know who the hell was “A.” However, I have restrained myself to not spoil who was murdered and by whom by checking for spoilers online.
However, this juicy drama is what makes television so much fun to watch. We have an all-star cast of players including Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, Oscar-nominee Laura Dern, starlet Shailene Woodley and “True Blood” alum Alexander Skarsgard. Supporting players include Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper and Jeffrey Nordling.
At its core, “Big Little Lies” tells the story of three women who reside in the town of Monterey, where exactly is not specified, but one would assume its California or somewhere on the West Coast. Jane (Woodley) has relocated to Monterey after suffering a horrific rape; Madeline is the Queen Bee to say the least of Monterey. This woman has no filter, is rarely apologetic and a hoot of a character to watch. On the opposite end is her best friend, Celeste (Kidman), who is a high-powered attorney who has given up practicing law at the request of her controlling and abusive husband, Perry (Skarsgard).
The ladies lives are intertwined courtesy of their children who are all in the same first grade glass. Their kids are splitting images of their parents, especially little Chloe who screams a little Madeline in the making. I mean this little girl has no qualms about speaking her truth. While some might argue it’s impossible to pack a punch in just 5 episodes, plenty has unfolded. Celeste has started to realize that the violence at the hands of her husband is a problem, even if she likes to believe that the make-up sex in the process is incredible.
While Madeline and Celeste are well aware of Jane’s sordid past, neither Jane nor Madeline has a CLUE as to what is going on with Celeste behind closed doors. This woman sure knows how to put on an amazing face to hide the emotional turmoil that she is enduring. She is in denial; and I suspect the violence at home is spilling over to her twin boys, and their actions at school. More on my predictions on who might be dead and at whose hands later.
Madeline is grappling with a ton; she has such a contentious relationship with her ex-husband Nathan (Tuppers), who has remarried and has another child with his organic, yoga practicing virtuous wife Bonnie (Kravitz). Madeline is livid her ex is so involved in his kid’s lives now, yet couldn’t do the same when he was attached to Madeline. To make matters worse, Madeline is struggling with the fact that her oldest daughter Abigail has decided to live with her father, and her relationship with her current husband Ed (Scott), lacks fire. Complicating the situation is Madeline’s ongoing tryst with the theater director Joseph (Santiago Cabrera).
Things are dicey because Ed has no idea that his wife has stepped out on him, and it appears Ed has a bit of rage building up on the inside. So when the truth of Madeline’s cheating comes to a head, plenty of fireworks will explode people. Igniting more fire to the madness is Renata Klein, the town’s goody too shoes; but beware not to mess with her daughter Amabella, or mama bear will be unleashed.
Speaking of Amabella, she is at the core of what pits these parents against one another, because the little girl is being bullied at school, and she points the finger at Ziggy, Jane’s son. Ziggy seems innocent, but he does have violent outbursts. I mean he threw a tantrum when his mother refused to acknowledge the name of his father on his family tree. So while it looks like Ziggy is a red-herring, it’s still possible he could be the one bullying Amabella. However, I think it’s Celeste’s twin boys who are bullying the little girl. Why? They are picking up on the behaviors that his father has exhibited towards their mother at home and are acting out in school.
“Big Little Lies” is a series that tackles a ton of heavy issues, infidelity, sex, domestic violence, bullying, rape, marriage, sexism and child rearing to say the least. The acting on this series is top-notch; Kidman and Witherspoon are fantastic in their roles. I could see both women as major contenders come Emmy season in a few months. Witherspoon is a breath of fresh air taking on a character that is unlike her splitting image of the girl next door; she is rude, crass, and a ton of fun to watch on the small screen. Kidman delivers a poised performance of a woman trapped looking for escape, and Woodley is haunting as a woman ready to explode at any given moment.
It’s rare that a series tackles such heavy subject matter and does so with precision, but that may be courtesy of the writing from David E. Kelley and the direction of Jean Marc-Valle, the same guy who was responsible for helming the terrific Dallas Buyers Club. With only two episodes left, I’m dying to know who dies. My gut reaction tells me it’s Perry, who commits the murder I’m not so certain on just yet, possibly at the hands of Madeline or Jane.
However, the biggest surprise I can see is Madeline being murdered, and everyone in town is a suspect in my opinion except Celeste and Jane. Share your thoughts. “Big Little Lies” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.