Posted by Rajitha S
One abusive man, some more foolish men, strong mothers, cute children, beautiful locales, luxurious cars, great music, fake-toothed Meryl Streep and a big fat lie—these aspects pretty much sum up Big Little Lies on HBO. The thriller has several bits that keep you glued. If you weren’t one of those who waited every week for a new episode, you would have been one like me, who watched both the seasons in one sitting. Yes, I finished both the seasons in a single weekend.
Apart from the gripping storyline, based on a novel of the same name by Australian writer, Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies has several highs.
For starters, the strength of female friendships is worth mentioning. Every single female character, portrayed effectively by actors of high calibre is unique, and distinctly powerful. One life-changing incident binds them together. This also leads them to bond and their relationship stronger. While we have been watching women pitted against each other, waiting to take each other down, the strength of female friendships on Big Little Lies are unbreakable.
The character, Jane Chapman, played by Shailene Woodley is that of a rape survivor who along with her child moves to Monterey Bay in California, where the rest of the characters have their lives going on. Jane shares her story with Madeline Mackinzie, played by Reese Witherspoon, who is like the go-to mother in area. Madeline listens to her story and empathises, without passing any judgement or asking any questions—a clear display of support. Jane’s story is like any other young woman of today’s time—who goes to a bar for a drink, flirts with a man, hoping to have a pleasant, fun night. Only, she ends up getting raped. Slowly, the rest of the women learn about Jane’s story, but no fingers pointed out. Jane is struggling, trying to get rid of the memory and the town lets her process her pain, in the way she wants to.
Every single female character, portrayed effectively by actors of high calibre is unique, and distinctly powerful. One life-changing incident binds them together. This also leads them to bond and their relationship stronger.
Big Little Lies begins with an episode of bullying in the school that all the children go to. As mothers, unleashing their protective nature, bicker a lot. Slowly, they grow out of it and the trust they build is something that gets them through the more tragic incident—death of Perry Wright, doting father and loving husband (at least we think so for a while), to Celeste Wright played by Nicole Kidman.
As we warm up to the bullying episode, the real side of Perry, played by handsome Alexander Skarsgård comes to the fore. His character too is real. Tainted as someone responsible for his brother’s death as a child by his mother, he turns into an abuser. This side of Perry and the way he deals with his wife is realistic.
Often, when a person complains of abuse, emotional or physical, is met with comments like, “But, he or she, is not like that!”, or “He or she does not have a history of being violent.” This is also what stops Celeste from opening up about her abusive relationship. She hides behind denial, where she expresses, even to her therapist that she, mostly, is happy in the relationship. In a normal circumstance, for Celeste and Perry, Perry finds fault with little things. When Celeste retorts, he ends up hitting her, and remorse follows immediately. Every single time, the couple end up having sex, which Celeste believes is the uniqueness of their relationship.
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His gestures to express his love for her cloud her judgement. She thinks, several times to move out, looks for a home only until Perry finds out. She also feels that she needs to keep going for the sake of her twin boys. Also, the couple are under the illusion that their children do not see the nature of their complicated relationship. Until Celeste finds a video of Perry kicking her in the gut shot by her son. This depicts how children are silent spectators of everything around them, eventually internalising certain behaviours. This aspect is revealed later in the show.
The other thing is the addiction that Celeste feels even after Perry is not around her. Being a part of an abusive relationship, anything otherwise doesn’t quite satisfy her. This bit portrays how those who are abused find it extremely difficult to move away from the abuser, like the effect of a drug that does not wear out until addressed in the appropriate manner.
The other thing is the addiction that Celeste feels even after Perry is not around her. Being a part of an abusive relationship, anything otherwise doesn’t quite satisfy her. This bit portrays how those who are abused find it extremely difficult to move away from the abuser
Apart from how Big Little Lies deals with these sensitive, yet important issues, the act of Meryl Streep will not go unnoticed. For those of us who grew up watching her in path-breaking roles, it is difficult not to hate her by the end of the show. She plays the role of Perry’s mother, Mary Louise Wright. If you think her fake teeth are annoying, her nosy and stubborn characteristics will make you want to slap her. You are likely to squeal or punch your fist in the air when Celeste does slap her on one occasion.
Reese Witherspoon nails her act as Madeline. She holds the group, Monteray five and the rest of the town together. Unapologetic and plain, Madeline is what most people aspire to be, if they are not already like her. She is forgiving and stands by her people like a rock.
Her husband, is the good guy, the one who loves her unconditionally. His rendition of Elvis Presley’s, Wonder of You on the show, makes your heart flutter. But, there are many more exciting things, and you are likely to brush him aside. He’s perfect, so let’s move on!
Madeline’s 10-year-old daughter, Chloe Mackinzie, who takes after her mother completely is one that will hold your attention. The child in her role leaves you in awe. Then there is the character of Renata Klein, played by Laura Dern. Her act is one that needs an applause. As an ambitious mother, she puts up with a lot from her foolish husband. But, only till she gets a hint of his foolishness. The scene where she reacts to his stupidity and his selfish decisions is surely entertaining and laudable.
While there are plenty of great things about Big Little Lies, there are certain bits which disappoint you. The storyline of Bonnie Calrson, played by Zoe Kravitz makes you believe that the writers didn’t quite know what to do with her character after a point. Her character is crucial to the story, but it just becomes boring and meaningless after a point. There is definitely a lot of justified inner turmoil, but it doesn’t quite click.
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The ending is also dull despite being left to the imagination of the audience. Since there is no third season of Big Little Lies, or that’s what the producers have said till date, it seems a bit silly how the show has ended. Overall, the show is gripping; the fierce characters and the way they grow. For that, it’s worth a watch! Also, you might want to visit Monterey Bay and go on a drive by the sea.
Rajitha S is a former journalist with a national daily and is currently on a break teaching mass communication to undergraduates at a private college in Bhutan. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image Source: Den Of Greek