Developed By: David E. Kelley Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling, Kathryn Newton, Iain Armitage, Darby Camp
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 52-58 Minutes per Episode, 7 Episodes
Tagline: "A perfect life is a perfect lie."
As I mentioned in a recent review, some shows are able to secure my interest in the simplest of ways - a twelve-ish word synopsis was all it took with the example in question. Pretty much the opposite is true of Big Little Lies, however. That tagline is semi-intriguing but the synopsis didn't sound too enticing to me. It talks about lives of 'success, affluence and privilege' being undone by 'lies, secrets, rivalries, and deception'. It just sounds like a soap opera, and hearing rich people complain about their drama is rarely the most appealing of prospects, even if it is based on a best-selling novel (by Liane Moriarty). Ordinarily I might've even passed it by altogether. That is, until I saw the cast which is pretty remarkable for a mere TV show.
|Jane, Meredith, and Celeste natter about stuff...|
Despite the happy facade though, they all have their own issues behind the scenes. Madeline's marriage has grown passionless, Celeste is growing concerned by Perry's increasing aggression toward her, and Jane is still suffering from the effects of a rape that left her pregnant with Ziggy who has begun asking about his father. The simmering tensions increase when an incident at school pits Madeline's rival, Renata (Dern), against Jane, and by extension Madeline as well.
|Jane stares forlornly unto the unending seas...|
Clues are provided by way of brief clips from police interviews with townsfolk which pop up now and then, and everyone has their own theories, naturally, but carefully watching the events unfold and relationships change over the course of the show's seven episodes should provide a few clues of its own. The growing tension between Madeline/Jane and Renata would be a logical place to start, as would the red mist that descends when Madeline's ex and current husbands are around each other.
|Perry gets his point across to Celeste...|
Everyone in the show does a splendid job but the focus will undoubtedly be on the three main stars more usually found on the big screen. Witherspoon and Kidman had optioned the screen rights to the novel a few years back so it was only natural they would star in it as well, and they are indeed perfect for their roles, as is Woodley who isn't far off half their age but gives a very measured and mature performance. The three characters are very different but they all show their own strengths and vulnerabilities as they attempt to deal with their various issues.
The story does take a little while to get going and some may find the squabbles and petty disagreements of the early episodes a bit boring but, as I discovered, it's definitely worth sticking with it. As more is revealed about each character and more potential conflicts arise, it really does get quite gripping. Besides, it's basically a murder mystery show so you're going to carry on watching to find out the who and why anyway, aren't you? The stellar cast and fantastic production should make it worth your while too. It's a slow burner but ultimately a very engaging show.
RKS Score: 8/10