These impressions contain spoilers for the first episode of ‘Big Little Lies’ Season One.
Big name movie stars pop up in HBO’s Big Little Lies. Based upon a book by Liane Moriaty and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée of Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild. It’s one of HBO’s prestige dramas for 2017.
The three leading ladies are Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, while not as big a name, is certainly up and coming with Divergent and Fault in Our Stars fame.
Jane (Woodley) has moved into Monterey, California – a city predominately rich and white. Jane is a single mother with a boy named Ziggy. She quickly becomes friends with Madeline (Witherspoon) after giving her a ride to school. She introduces her to her friend Celeste and the trio is complete. All these ladies have young families.
Madeline lives with Ed (a bearded Adam Scott) and struggles to communicate with her teenage daughter who would rather listen to her dad’s new partner, Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz). She also has an adorable young girl, same age as Ziggy, who is “already networking” with the other kids.
Celeste lives with a younger man, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård – who looks a lot different with short hair and a shirt on!). He’s also very physical and we see him lash out at Celeste when they have a disagreement.
The main incident happens after the first day of school where all the parents are taken to the side. A girl has been choked and is nursing her neck. The girl doesn’t know any one’s names, it’s the first day after all. The mother, Renata (Laura Dern), wants to press this, and to get the culprit to apologise. It becomes an impromptu police lineup situation when the teacher suggests she point to the child that did it.
And of course a finger lands on new Jane on the block’s wee boy, Ziggy. He swears he’s innocent and his mum defends him. Knowing that a murder happens later you can kind of see how it’s a metaphor for what is yet to come. I’m always on the side of the victim in an assault case, but presenting the kid as the potential perpetrator really messed me up. I’m still thinking about this scene.
Intercut throughout this drama, a crime investigation is going on, which appears to be the present. The majority of what we’re watching is the part leading up to the murder. They’ve discovered a body, we don’t know who it is, and they’re interviewing these side characters. They present their commentary on the three ladies throughout the episode, with middling tidbits like this is an episode of The Office. It’s really just a chance for them to vent about these socialites. It’s pretty jarring.
I’m hoping this isn’t another situation like The Affair where we don’t find out who has been killed until the last episode. It really drains the tension. The thing about a murder is it’s really easy to create drama, but just show us the body! I was expecting it to show up at the end of the pilot but nope. Otherwise you’re just a soap advertising the latest secret character you’re going to knock off. “Who’s it gonna be??”. I can see how they’re playing it but we’re going to be strung along until we catch up to the present. I just want to get to the part after the murder.
I’ve seen enough of these long-winded HBO dramas. So what if there’s a murder? I was bored and not invested in the slightest. That school scene was incredible, and it was just an emotional standoff. But there needs to be more interesting conversations. These actors are amazing but the material is lacking and doesn’t give them much to work with… yet. They’re stereotype soccer mums here and they deserve better.
Verdict: I really don’t know about this one. Despite the big name talent I found myself drifting in and out. I’m going to test the waters with a couple more episodes and see how I feel.
Where to watch: HBO