Wednesday, April 5, 2017

HBO TV Review: Big Little Lies (2017)

Big Little Lies (2017) - Created by David E. Kelley; Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravtiz.

By Kenny Howell

When Big Little Lies is not trying to be The Real Housewives of Monterey, it is actually quite good.

Unfortunately, it leans on that and a framing device to the story that isn't all that intriguing. We find out at the beginning of the show that one of the characters has been murdered, and we will find out over those seven episodes who that is. I never really cared too much who that might be, and when we find out, it is even more underwhelming.

What is good is the middle of the story, where you actually get to learn something about the characters. Reese Witherspoon (Wild) plays Madeline, an extremely strong bulldog of a woman that is married (for the second time) to Ed (Adam Scott), and has two kids. She frequently spars with Renata, played by Laura Dern (F is for Family). Nicole Kidman (Stoker) is Celeste, a woman married to an abusive husband (Alexander Skarsgard). And Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now) is a single mom name Jane, who came to Monterey with a tragic past.

Things kick off when Jane's son Ziggy is accused of bullying the daughter of Renata. Madeline jumps to Jane's defense, as does Celeste. Bored rich housewives do what bored rich housewives do, and things get a bit vindictive. That spills over into a fight over a play that Madeline is trying to bring to the community theater that includes puppets having sex.

After we get introduced to these women, and the cattiness dies down, Big Little Lies gets much better. It tells a really honest, horrifying story of abuse, one of trying to recover from sexual assault, and one exploring the guilt of infidelity. All those are handled extremely well, especially by the brilliant leads of Kidman, Witherspoon and Woodley, but Big Little Lies is too insistent on getting back to its "who killed JR" moment, which is which character is going to die at the end of the show. It makes it hard to get into the story, and then puts a disappointing cap on the end of it. If the middle was the show, it would have been quite good. Unfortunately, it is not.

The entire first season of Big Little Lies is now on HBO Go or HBO Now.

Rating: **1/2

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