So how many of you were gripped by Big Little Lies which finished up on TV last Monday? Everyone that I spoke to adored it as did I, and the performances were the best thing about it. The show focussed on a group of women in Monterey, mothers whose children go to the same school. An incident between two children kicks off the plot and for the next seven episodes the series explores the lives of the women: their relationships, their conflict about stay-at-home mothering versus careers, and their interactions with each other.
Many male critics dismissed Big Little Lies as high-end soap opera, a condescending view that entirely misses the point. Yes, the characters live in Pinterest-worthy opulent homes, yes, they are expensively dressed and yes, the show revolves around a murder mystery, but the show is, at its heart, a character study superbly acted by the female leads: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.
Kidman’s portrayal of Celeste, a woman locked in an abusive relationship, is a career best and it’s already generating award buzz. Her marriage isn’t a simplistic black and white ‘she’s good and he’s evil’ cliche, instead we see the intense love and passion between them intertwined with the extreme and frequent violence. Alexander Skarsgård’s performance as Kidman’s husband is so compelling that women may cross the street to avoid him for the rest of his life.
Reese Witherspoon decided to start her own production company, Pacific Standard, and develop her own projects because of a phenomenon she calls ‘Smurfette Syndrome’: being the only woman on a film set full of men. Her company has produced Big Little Lies, Wild, and Gone Girl, hugely successful projects with strong complex female characters which have challenged the notion that the film-going public aren’t interested in women’s stories. She’s admirable, a trailblazer within the industry.
Big Little Lies was originally conceived as a miniseries but due to its runaway popularity there is a rumour that it may be extended for a second series. As much as I loved it, I hope not, as the story was perfectly wrapped up and should stand alone. I can’t wait to see what Reese does next.