Coming to Blu-ray this week from creator David E. Kelley, director Jean-Marc Vallee and HBO Home Entertainment is the unbelievable limited series “Big Little Lies.”
The story begins in Monterey when a death occurs on the steps of the local school. Through the investigation, the police speak to Madeline Mckenzie (Reese Witherspoon), a well-known Mom who takes no guff from anyone as she raises her elementary school daughter Chloe (Darby Camp) as well as a teenager Abigail (Kathryn Newton).
Also, Celeste (Nicole Kidman) who is a mother of twin boys is a seemingly close friend to Madeline. New to Monterey is Jane (Shailene Woodley) who is raising her son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) all by herself. This is where the stories begin!
Madeline and Jane meet the first day of school when Madeline discovers her teenage daughter is acting out. At a stop sign there is a confrontation and Madeline ends up on the asphalt. Jane stops to help and their friendship begins from there.
Being new to school, Ziggy is accused by his classmate Amabella (Ivy George) of hurting her. Her mother Renata (Laura Dern) isn’t about to have it and wants something done. Jane meets with the principal and says that Ziggy denies hurting anyone but that’s not good enough for Renata.
If that isn’t bad enough, Madeline is dealing with ex-husband Nathan (James Tupper) who pushes constantly. Part of it is due to his new wife Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) who doesn’t know her limitations when it comes to Abigail who drives Madeline to distraction. That distraction upsets her husband Ed (Adam Scott) who thinks she spends way to much time worrying about everyone else — except him.
Celeste and her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) are also having issues when he has a problem with not knowing every little thing that goes on in the family. Their relationship is based on physical issues and not always good ones. Perry tends to resolve issues with an angry frightening tone.
Jane’s story is unclear to Madeline and Celeste but they both figure she will tell them in time. Yet Ziggy is coming to the age where he is asking questions about his father and where he might be. Jane continues to say she doesn’t know but Madeline believes there is more that she isn’t telling.
To keep from losing her mind completely, Madeline works with the local theater on a production of “Avenue Q,” which now the mayor objects to. Not about to give up, she talks Celeste into legal intervention to get city hall of their stage. Perry isn’t happy about this either.
Celeste and Perry begin therapy with Dr. Reisman (Robin Weigert) and she immediately asks questions that have the couple very uncomfortable. With Perry always traveling out of town, Celeste continues with therapy as she is confronted with the issues that are plaguing her.
Jane finally tells Madeline about Ziggy’s father and a search begins for the man. Jane isn’t sure how to handle all of her feelings as she plays out in her heard what could happen.
Renata is wielding her ugliness towards Jane and Ziggy by not making him welcome to a party. Madeline is furious and decides it is probably best that she put together a little fun of her own to keep Renata at bay. Of course the fact that she has a long arm means that there will be more problems between the two later.
Jane has finally had enough of Renata when she discovers there is a petition to have Ziggy suspended from school. The two come together for a confrontation that could either help or hurt but they are still no closer to the truth about the bullying.
The night of “Avenue Q,” Madeline is thrilled that everyone has shown up, that is everyone but Celeste and Perry. When Celeste is defending herself, Perry is hurt and a statement he makes later has her realizing that maybe it’s time to leave.
In the meantime Nathan discovers that having Abigail living with him is harder than he could have imagined, especially when he discovers she has found an interesting way to raise money for Amnesty International.
As with all secrets, there comes a tipping point as Celeste deals with Perry, Madeline has a moment of realization about her life with Ed and Jane learns the truth about the bullying that is more shocking that she could have imagined and in one snap of time everyone’s life will change.
It is a moment that could save them or ruin them all.
Witherspoon as Madeline is a total spitfire who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She goes from 0 to bitch in a split second but she had me cracking up the entire time. Probably because I recognize some of those qualities in someone I know. Witherspoon is fast talking, fast paced and tries to give this character so much to occupy her mind; it’s easy to see she has real problems that can not be avoided forever. I just loved her in this role.
Kidman as Celeste has the role of a woman torn by a life and a husband that she seems to adore. Being a part of her kid’s life is so important to this character that she is willing to put aside the mounting issues that are a frightening reality that can’t be hidden much longer. Kidman handles this role with elegance, grace and with a manner that puts everyone else’s needs before her own life. An amazing performance!
Woodley as Jane is a woman who is full of secrets and the time is coming where those secrets can’t stay hidden much longer. It served her well for a long time but as her son gets older it becomes clear daily that she needs to face her fears and face the truth of the life she has been hiding behind. Just so well done!
Dern as Renata is a woman who is in dire need of something, anything! This character is that woman who will do anything to make sure that everyone else follows her directions. That form of control is hiding the fear that she really feels and to watch it unravel is truly interesting. Dern has always been a favorite of mine and between “Big Little Lies” and her returning role in “Twin Peaks: The Return,” she continues to be high on my list.
Skarsgård as Perry is a nightmare to watch. His presence is loving at times but there are moments where you can see something else, something frightening and that means has Skarsgård done his role proper. Scott as husband Ed has more patience with his wife than I ever could have. Trying to be supportive and understanding, Madeline pushes the boundaries of that until he lets her know things have to change. I applauded when he stood up for himself!
Kravitz as Bonnie is a yoga-practicing-health-food-eating step-mother to Abigail who drives Madeline to distraction. It is an interesting dynamic that happens in a lot of extended families. Tupper as Nathan is an ex-husband who doesn’t embrace his mistakes because he’s too busy trying to be super dad to make up for them.
Newton as Abigail is a teen character that just drives me nuts. Yes, I raised four teens and I can assure you none of them ever talked to me like that. It might have had something to do consequences because Abigail certainly didn’t seem to have any.
Other cast include Larry Bates as Stu, Larry Sullivan as Oren, Virginia Kull as Ms. Barnes, Merrin Dungey as Detective Quinlan, Hong Chau as Jackie, Santiago Cabrera as Joseph, PJ Byrne as Principal Nippal, Sarah Burns as Gabrielle, Sarah Baker as Thea Cunningham, Jeffrey Nordling as Gordon Klein and Joseph Cross as Tom.
The Blu-ray and Digital HD includes the bonus features of “About ‘Big Little Lies’” — An extended behind-the-scenes look at the series with never-before-seen cast & crew interviews and “Inside the Episodes” with director Jean-Marc Vallee and writer David E. Kelley. Included as well is the Digital HD Ultraviolet that allows viewing on iTunes, television, computer, tablet and Smartphone.
“Big Little Lies” is an amazing limited series and I couldn’t help but binge-watch on Blu-ray. There was no way I could sleep without knowing what was going to happen next and this cast made it all look so effortless. Witherspoon, Kidman and Woodley gave performances that were both intense, hilarious and stunning.
It is the story of the lives lived behind closed doors and the faces we put on to everyone else. It is about the secrets we keep from one another and the excuses given when the cracks begin to show. Most of all, “Big Little Lies” is a coming together when lives are torn apart which is stunningly done by Kelley and director Vallee.
I didn’t know what to expect from this HBO limited series but I can tell you that I would absolutely love if it were continued — at least for another season maybe? There is so much more of their stories to tell and by the end you will want to see more as well.
It’s time to experience “Big Little Lies” for yourself! We are giving away copies of the series and to discover how to get yours please visit http://moviemaven.homestead.com.
In the end — a perfect life is a perfect lie!