Every so often, a series comes along that completely shakes and shifts the television dynamic – this year, HBO’s Big Little Lies has undoubtedly achieved just that. An adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel helmed by French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) and produced by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal), Big Little Lies transports audiences into the seemingly idyllic lives of the residents in scenic Monterey, California. However, what appears to be the perfect life… is far from it. Rather, audiences are introduced to the flawed realities of our protagonists, replete with all the workings of troubled marriages, domestic violence, parenthood, and the pursuit to keep up appearances at any cost. All of which are wrapped up in (you guessed it) lies – both big, and little.
At the core of these elements, is a murder.
It would be one thing to brand this miniseries as solely a murder mystery with all the ingredients of your ‘typical’ whodunit, but as the series quickly progresses and introduces a myriad of plotlines, audiences are offered so much more to chew on, especially through the many complexities brought to the screen by our main heroines. Given Moriarty’s source material, the series is equal parts poignant and humorous throughout, unsettling at times, and culminates in a heart-stopping, yet satisfying finale.
And the soundtrack is killer, too.
Featuring a stellar cast that includes Reese Witherspoon (as Madeline Martha Mackenzie), Nicole Kidman (as Celeste Wright), Shailene Woodley (as Jane Chapman), Laura Dern (as Renata Klein), and Zoë Kravitz (as Bonnie Carlson), it’s hard to deny this prestige drama was always going to deliver actress gold – and it’s arguably the series’ biggest draw. Now, with the final instalment having aired, Big Little Lies has cemented itself as a masterclass of acting and storytelling, if the critical and audience consensus is anything to go by. It also serves as a necessary celebration of strong, resilient women, and above everything – it’s a story of sisterhood.
Kidman and Witherspoon have garnered serious attention for what many are hailing as their finest performances yet, so you can believe the race for Emmy victory this year will be a tough one if our leading ladies are to receive nominations.
Despite only having the platform of a limited series, Big Little Lies feels, to a great degree, like a feature film from start to finish, and this was always Vallée’s intention. When asked in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter if there would be a second season, Vallée responded: “No, no, this is the perfect ending. That was meant to be a one-time deal, and it’s finishing in a way where it’s for the audience to imagine what can happen.”
It makes sense. Too much of a good thing can ruin what made it special in the first place, particularly when Big Little Lies has mostly exhausted the prime content from Moriarty’s novel. Besides, seven episodes make it all the easier for repeat viewing.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10