There’s no thrill like seeing the mask of a normal person come off. We all have our dual personalities – one that is subservient to our image in the public eye and another which we keep to ourselves. Our dirty secrets. And that’s what makes David Kelley’s Big Little Lies such a wild ride. The show based in posh Monterey, has a public school in its centre. As parents come to drop off their children in their ‘civilised’ avatar, it is where a lot of the action takes place. It’s one part hilarious to see the changing dynamics between the mothers, fathers and exes in that little window of them dropping off/picking up their kids from school.
Let’s start at the beginning. The show starts with a murder, and we’re told about neither the victim nor the accused. And thus begins the delicious versions of truth about nearly a dozen of the key players of the neighbourhood. People come up with their own kind of hearsay, and that takes the narrative forward about how things led to the eventual day of murder. It’s nothing short of spectacular, how all characters are built up as efficiently as they are, and about two episodes in and we understand them a lot better.
One might feel a serious Desperate Housewives hangover when they start watching the show, but brilliant actors including the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and a vivacious Nicole Kidman lift the show out of the depths of a tacky whodunit. We’re all glued to the episodes looking for that slight hint of who is ‘capable’ of murder, and it is only amusing to find out how all the characters have their own little indicators of being one step away from the cliff of insanity. On the surface they are all well-meaning, cordial parents. Only behind locked doors, does their dark resentment come out.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée (who also directed Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild) makes proper use of his cast’s immense star-power imbuing them into parts which is always one part real for every part they are beautiful. The show also works because it calls out the flat-out hypocrisy of a ‘civilised society’ through an entire town’s gossip which is recorded as ‘statement’ for the investigation, leaving the viewer to decode his own version of the truth. It lets the viewers decide who they would rather empathise with, and who they would rather see die.
Being based in an upmarket neighbourhood, the show sees more than one character in their blindingly affluent home, looking out at the ocean. In one episode, Reese Witherspoon’s character says to her daughter that there is freedom in the ocean, implying how trapped she feels in the everyday domesticity of Monterey. As the show goes on, the dirty secrets start coming out – why Shailene Woodley moved into the neighbourhood as a single mother, Nicole Kidman and her husband’s violent episodes, the mystery behind Laura Dern’s daughter getting bullied in school.
This 7-episode mini-series might be described as ‘too catty’ by a few people, and that won’t be completely wrong. However, for me the show really worked for the ingenious way it goes about its expositions. A word for the men of the show, particularly the image-breaking Alexander Skarsgard who adds many layers to his caring husband, good father character. The show also features a hand-picked soundtrack which is categorically old-school, making it charmingly addictive. Don’t miss it!
*You can watch all episodes of the show over here.