Thursday, February 23, 2017

Big Little Lies 1x01 Recap: “Somebody’s Dead” (A Very Accurate Title) [Guest Poster: Nora Williamson]

“Somebody’s Dead”
Original Airdate: February 19, 2017

The Big Little Lies premiere is full of intrigue and shows us the cracks in perfect facades. It also highlights the idea that elementary school can be a battleground and that the residents of an idyllic community in Monterey, California can harbor some potentially dark secrets. I have read the book by Australian author Liane Moriarty, although I cannot remember the specifics and therefore won’t really compare the show to the book.

However, as most of Moriarty’s books take place in Sydney, I am having a hard time adjusting to the California setting. I currently live in Australia, and there are just some very Australian things about Liane Moriarty’s books (besides the setting). Monterey, though, is a great alternative and it is visually stunning. The houses in Big Little Lies are amazing — those views! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to really sympathize with any of the characters who live in the palatial mansions, though. I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, but really? How can you be unhappy in those houses?

The premiere establishes that someone has been murdered, but we don’t know who or how it even happened. What we do know is that it occurred at a school fundraiser. Throughout the episode, we see parents from the school being questioned by police, and well, none of them seem too surprised by what happened. They are also quick to assign blame. The interrogations start off a bit clunky but become more cohesive as the premiere continues.

There is no denying that Big Little Lies has huge star power attached to it. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are the marquee names but Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, and Alexander Skarsgard also star. Big Little Lies is a page-turner of a book, but if it had been adapted differently with B-listers, it could have easily been a Lifetime movie. With the caliber of actors it has, plus the writing of David E. Kelley and directing by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), Big Little Lies has that big-budget HBO feel to it. The production is great, the locations are beautiful, and the acting and writing is powerful.

We are introduced to the four main characters: Madeline, Celeste, Jane, and Renata.

Madeline, the mother who is in everyone’s business, is played by Reese Witherspoon. She works part-time at the local theater. The theater is putting on Avenue Q, which is causing some drama in the town and causing even more tension between Madeline and her ex-husband’s wife, Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). Madeline is a bit much at first, but her character grew on me as the show went on. She has one teenage daughter, Abigail, from her first marriage, and then six-year-old Chloe, who has a penchant for finishing Madeline’s curse-filled sentences and calling her “woman.” Ed (Adam Scott), is Madeline’s husband, but he doesn’t do much in this first episode. He just soothes Madeline or gives her a few wry looks. I hope we see more of their relationship as the show goes on. It does make sense that Ed doesn’t have a domineering personality. I don’t think Madeline and Ed’s marriage would last if he did.

Nicole Kidman’s Celeste is Madeline’s best friend and appears to have a perfect life. She has twin boys and an attentive, hot husband, Perry (played by Alexander Skarsgard). When we first meet Celeste, it seems like she has it all. As the episode goes on, we see that Perry is potentially abusive and things are far from perfect. The cracks are barely noticeable, but a few of the looks Celeste gives are very telling.

There’s also a great scene where Celeste, Madeline, and the young, new mother Jane go for coffee. Jane talks about looking at her life as an outsider, like her life doesn’t quite belong to her. Madeline has no idea what she’s talking about but Celeste gets it. Both Jane and Celeste have a moment like they completely understand one another. It’s one of my favorite scenes.

Speaking of Jane, she’s new in town and unintentionally causes battle lines to be drawn. One of the mothers refers to her as “a dirty old Prius parked in front of Barney’s.” She is even mistaken for being a nanny. Jane is quickly befriended by Madeline, and therefore also Celeste. Jane, played by Shailene Woodley, is definitely an intriguing character. She’s a little cagey when asked about her son Ziggy’s father; and Ziggy, as cute as he is, may be a bit of a psycho. We keep seeing visions of Jane in a party dress and I’m keen to see her backstory.

I’m drawn to Jane because, like us, she is new to this community and is getting a lay of the land. Madeline and Jane’s friendship starts very quickly, which made things a teensy unbelievable for me at first. Even after Ziggy is accused of choking a classmate, Madeline is very quick to side with Jane. Perhaps Madeline sees a little of herself in Jane, as we know that Madeline was also a very young mother.

Renata, portrayed by Laura Dern, is an Alpha female type and one of the “working” mothers. I thought Laura Dern played the part particularly well, because Renata is multidimensional when she didn’t have to be. She’s definitely annoying, but she is self-aware enough to know that she is not liked because she is a working mother. The dynamics are certainly interesting between all the women.

Although there are already people on Team Renata and Team Madeline in regards to what happened at orientation, I think that as the show goes on, we are going to see that those battle lines are certainly going to be blurred and that neither team is completely in the right.

Overall, Big Little Lies is compelling enough to keep watching even though I already know the gist of the story. The acting is fantastic, the music is cool, the houses are absolutely gorgeous, and there’s a murder mystery. What more can I ask for?

1 comment:

  1. I love love love this show and I'm already sad it's going to end way too quickly.

    I'm Australian and I love hearing Madeline's daughter call her mother "woman"...I remember doing that as a child haha.

    Reese Witherspoon is fantastic in this role!