Category: Television Series

“Big Little Lies” EW Review

The women of Big Little Lies present lives of fulfilling motherhood, and they work overtime to make themselves believe it. They reside in sun-kissed Monterey, California, an oasis of serenity and progressiveness, with majestic homes overlooking a churning ocean that speaks to a yearning and tumult they can’t bear to fathom.

Nicole Kidman is Celeste, the envy of everyone, a former attorney who gave up work to raise her twins, married to a suave family man (Alexander Skarsgård) with terrible demons. Reese Witherspoon is Madeline, a helicopter mom and queen-bee busybody hooked on high drama. Shailene Woodley is Jane, a single parent devoted to a boy born of sexual violence; she seeks a new beginning, but she isn’t ready for it. Each is a ticking time bomb, and their mounting stress affects everyone in their cloistered village. When the deadly explosion comes, there’s no shortage of suspects.

Big Little Lies is Desperate Housewives: Prestige Cable Edition, a soap-noir about postfeminist identity and post-community idealism — satire over slapstick, serious themes over fun-time escapism. Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild), the seven-episode miniseries continues the gold rush of starry event TV (see: The Night Manager, The Night Of), though its heaviness may discourage obsessiveness. Celeste’s arc, a tough story of cyclical abuse, grows dark over time.

Both she and haunted Jane burn slowly, maybe too slowly, toward breaking points. Still, Vallée’s fluid storytelling — a lovely, dazed naturalism spliced with flashes of troubling memory — casts a spell. His juxtaposition of trapped, frozen souls and the iconography of California dreaming — the warmth, the beach, the expanse of ocean — is full of meaning. Kelley’s writing grabs you with whodunit? intrigues (a mysterious death, victim unknown, frames the season) and balances the heavy with salty levity. Police interviews with judgy, jealous townspeople function as both unreliable narrator and catty Greek chorus. A subplot involving Avenue Q amuses, because, you know, puppets.

Kidman and Woodley deliver moving portraits of still-life women, paralyzed by trauma and avoidance. Witherspoon is marvelous in a rare role that allows for comedy and drama. Her character recalls two career triumphs: the spark of Legally Blonde‘s Elle Woods trapped inside a retrograde version of Election‘s Tracy Flick. She flails for significance through her kids and grudges against a hard-charging working mom (a sparky Laura Dern) and her ex-husband’s new wife, a neo-hippie yoga instructor (Zoë Kravitz).

Just when you worry the show is a pageant of ugly clichés about female rivalry, it gives you a poignant, nuanced scene to deepen the whole. Can the whodunits offer anything more interesting than just shocker payoffs? TBD after four eps. Big Little Lies invests you in mysteries and the renewal and re-liberation of its women. Hopefully it can transcend to big little truths, too. B+

Big Little Lies debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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“Big Little Lies” Review: Moms Fight Dirty in HBO’s Wicked (Good) Miniseries

It’s tempting to take one look at the multimillion-dollar homes and luxury cars the characters have in Big Little Lies, and ask: “How can these people have any problems?” But as one character says, “You can’t make a perfect world. No matter what, s—t happens.”

S—t most certainly does happen in the star-studded HBO miniseries (debuting Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9/8c), including a grisly homicide that sends shockwaves through the seaside community of Monterey, California. But the great thing about Big Little Lies is: The murder is almost beside the point. The vicious battle for power and status waged between the Monterey moms is gripping enough, and serves as a showcase for some fantastic female performances.

Monterey is a town of big fake smiles and passive-aggressive politeness, and its filthy-rich moms take the term “helicopter parent” to a whole new level. (As one neighbor puts it, they’re more like “f—king kamikazes.”) That includes Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), a hard-charging “super mom” whose parenting isn’t all that super, and Celeste (Nicole Kidman), whose picture-perfect marriage is developing some cracks around the edges. The sense of place here is excellent, immersing us in a pristine yuppie utopia where these alpha moms rule with an iron fist.

The arrival of Jane (Shailene Woodley), an unpolished single mother with a checkered past, sparks a savage rift between the moms — with their kids getting caught in the crossfire. And we know someone ends up dead, with flash-forwards to a crime scene and nosy neighbors eagerly telling cops all the local gossip they’ve overheard. But the four episodes screened for critics not only don’t reveal the killer; they don’t even reveal who died. And it’s actually a brilliant storytelling choice, because you start to look at everyone as a potential suspect and victim.

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“Big Little Lies” Review: Reese Witherspoon Is So Damn Good

HBO’s trashy murder thriller features a stacked cast of phenomenal actresses. But Reese Witherspoon’s foul-mouthed housewife is the biggest revelation—and reason to watch. Read the review from The Daily Beast:

Tracy Flick has grown up and she thinks you’re a c*nt.

Big Little Lies, HBO’s splashy, trashy thriller with a stacked cast of women (Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz) giving explosively fun performances, is a feat if for no other reason than giving Reese Witherspoon the best showcase of her talents since she played the ruthlessly ambitious teen in 1999’s Election.

Two decades, an Oscar, a reign as America’s Sweetheart, and a production company championing female-driven material later, she plays the impressively named Madeline Martha McKenzie, a ferocious master manipulator with far worse things to say about people than the aforementioned c-word.

She’s a Monterey, California, housewife whose venom-dart tongue fires bullseyes on the backs of all the mothers of the first grade class her precocious daughter Chloe attends. That is, all of them save for Kidman’s regal, warm Celeste and Woodley’s anxious, lonely Jane, both whom she guards with more lioness-cub fierceness than even her own kids.

Whether she’s ruling that her ex-husband’s hippie new wife “probably gives mint flavor organic blow jobs” or being self-aware about her hell-hath-no-fury reputation—“I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets.”—Madeline is a hurricane and a hoot, brought back to earth by the wild complexity Witherspoon gives her.
She’s wily, wanton, and unapologetic one moment, vulnerable and empathetic the next, and through it all jarringly relatable—were we all lucky enough to spew out such David E. Kelley-penned unfiltered arias to express our own frustrations.

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(Video) Good Morning America

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern sit down with ABC News’ Jesse Palmer to discuss Big Little Lies. Earlier on Good Morning America, Reese and Nicole interviewed each other


(Video) HBO’s “Big Little Lies” Behind The Scenes

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman share what it’s like to work on the HBO’s Big Little Lies set.


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