Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling
Creator: David E. Kelley
Air Date: March 13, 2017. Sky Atlantic
It is no secret that TV is really the place where actors want to be seen these days. In the past there has been an arrogance towards television, and often people that started there rarely want to return. Luckily, that has changed massively in recent years. With Ryan Murphy's superb crime and horror dramas, shows like This Is Us creating diverse roles and opportunities, and companies now offering streaming and producing their own quality programming, without the daunting schedules, it is no wonder that the uality and talent has bloomed. All you have to do is turn on the TV and you will be faced with the likes of Jessica Lange, and now Nicole Kidman, on your small screen.
Big Little Lies is like Desperate Housewives, but with real substance, grit and depth; nothing against the ladies of Wisteria Lane, because they are one of my many guilty pleasures. That being said, Desperate Housewives was very campy, bright and tongue-in-cheek; giving it a less serious tone. Big Little Lies is the opposite. Focusing on mothers of children at a top school, their lives and problems intertwine against a moody backdrop and the looming presence of a murder. Each story has mountains of room to grow, whilst hopefully remaining sensible and real in it's journey.
Our first mother is Madeline Mackenzie (Witherspoon), a lover of the theatre, a proud mother and a woman who isn't afraid to voice her opinions despite the problems it may cause. She has a younger daughter who has a colourful vocabulary, a teenager who likes her step-mother more, and a husband who loves her despite often being made to feel second best. Having remarried after her divorce, Madeline looks set to live a peaceful and normal life again. Witherspoon is a dream in this role, bringing warmth and the real sense of a matriarch in charge to the show. She is a strong character, and Witherspoon has proven to be fearless performer and continues to show that the whole way through episode one.
Celeste Wright (Kidman) is a business minded woman, married to a younger man and mother to two energetic twin boys. She, from the outside, appears to have the perfect life; but of course, behind close doors, you can't imagine. Kidman is stoic in the way she holds and brings Celeste to life, but shows small glimmers at her maternal and loving side. She certainly doesn't come over as the warmest of the women, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't show her love. A scene where she is trying to get the perfect picture of her boys highlights the way people to day want to put across this perfect image of their life, when maybe it isn't real.
Next up, and new to town, is Jane Chapman (Woodley). The youngest of our mothers, and the one shrouded in the most mystery. She has moved her with a son Ziggy, and we still don't know why. We know Ziggy sleepwalks, we know something happened back where she lived, and we know that Ziggy gets accused of choking a child on his first day at the new school. Woodley is vulnerable and timid, whilst remaining spirited and rightfully protective of her son. The character initially comes across as lost and naive, but soon it becomes clear there is more to Jane, and Woodley is sure to be undeniably brilliant at bringing this to life.
Finally, Renata Klein (Dern), a determined, sharp and defencive woman, and potentially the coldest of the four. It is her child that Ziggy has been accused of choking, and she shows no qualms in shaming and embarrassing him in front of all his new peers. Dern gives a severe and confident performance as Renata, but as the episode moves on begins to peel back some layers and reveal that their may be more to her than you first see. She clearly has put up a front, but in no way will she let that weaken her.
These four actresses have embodied their characters fully and not one of them delivers a weak or forgetful performance. They work together brilliantly and they all lift each others energy and boost one another's performances throughout. It is going to be amazing to see their stories mix up, and each characters secrets get out and see how it effect how they perform.
The writing is superb, David E. Kelley has created multi-layered character, a story that is full of mystery and intrigue, and also a script that is a social commentary on the world we live in. It is a murder mystery wrapped up in a family drama, but what I found most intriguing and fascinating was the mothers relationships with each other. It is a fact that women judge each others parenting constantly, but also completely unfairly. Big Little Lies also takes a close look at this sad truth, and shines a massive light on it.
I cannot wait to see where this show goes, and how this story develops. Who has been murdered? Who killed them? Why did they do it? They are just some of the questions, and I am sure there are more to come. The setting is beautifully glum and the show is shot gorgeously. Catch Big Little Lies, coming March 13, 2017 in the UK; on Sky Atlantic.
Big Little Lies - Promo