The HBO mini-series is a delightful thing indeed. Whilst the premium cable service’s flagship works such as Game of Thrones, Veep, and Westworld promise recurring drama of emphatic quality, their slighter, one-off works are constantly exquisite; always feeling cinematic due to immaculate narrative design, and of course, thoroughbred talent. After the brilliance of The Night Of (2016), Olive Kitteridge (2014), and one’s personal favourite, Todd Haynes’ 2011 adaptation of Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet, Home Box Office are set to dominate February with Big Little Lies: the small-screen adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s celebrated 2014 novel. Here’s why the show is Filmoria’s TV Pick of the Month…
Staged in the tranquil, and unashamedly wealthy seaside suburb of Monterey, California, Big Little Lies examines the brutal collapse of idyllic existence. Told from the perspective of three mothers – Madeline, Celeste, and Jane – all varied in age, circumstance, and experience, the show paints a portrait of a talking town; a landscape of rumours, secrets, and deceit, which is all delicately cloaked by ocean-front balconies and patios, as opposed to picket fences and rosebushes. HBO have beautifully dubbed the show as a “subversive, darkly comedic drama,” which weaves a tapestry of paranoia, blame culture, and mistrust in the wake of a grisly murder.
The trailer boasts some fantastically acidic dialogue, which we most certainly hope is a recurring theme throughout. Screens of all sizes have always been fascinated by the rich, and how their behaviours are altered in the presence of financial power. Their is a venom and cynicism to their prose, and brimming bile beneath the falsest of smiles. We also get glimpses of the show’s ravishing cinematography and colour palette, too. A silhouette stood upon the shore as the moonlight tints the water with its darkness, is quite frankly stunning. As you’d expected from a narrative focused on the lifestyles of the upper class, the set designs, location photography, and costume are all of an immaculate calibre; from swanky pool houses, and bustling harbours, to neon-drenched nightclubs, and buzzing cafés, it has a visual flavour reminiscent of shows like The O.C. (2003 – 2007).
Executively produced, and written by David E. Kelly – the mastermind behind Ally McBeal (1997 – 2002), and Boston Legal (2004 – 2008) – this forthcoming seven-part series, which pilots on 19th February, is directed by none other than Jean-Marc Valée; the Academy Award-nomianted auteur behind 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, and 2014’s Wild; one of the finest films that calendar year. Big Little Lies sees Valée reunite with his central subject from the film too, as Reese Witherspoon is just one of the many incredible stars on offer here. The principal cast is a heavy-hitting trio of Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Witherspoon, with support from Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgård, Zoë Kravitz, and P.J. Byrne, among others. In addition to starring in the show, Witherspoon and her co-manager Bruna Papandrea’s company Pacific Standard will also be producing, which adds another impressive entry to their CV, having already gotten the likes David Fincher’s Gone Girl off the ground a couple of years ago.
The prospect of seeing these actors in roles with layered façades is something most enticing, particularly for the likes of say Scott, who is wholly recognised for his comedic value, but here his character seems fractured, vulnerable, and emotionally explosive. Veterans such as Kidman, Dern and Witherspoon have the dexterity to turn their hand to any performance style, whilst Woodley – already one of the best young actresses at work today – is gifted the opportunity to take the central spotlight amongst some of the industry’s most established female actors. Under the precise and clinical coordination of Valée, we can be sure that each screen turn will be as sharply observed and controlled as his camera.
With a enriching and compelling subject matter, rendered by brittle characters, all of which are embodied by some of the finest in their fields, Big Little Lies is quite frankly essential viewing. Fans of any and all HBO programming should be readying themselves for the sun, sea, and scandal, whilst those unfamiliar with the network’s mini-series banquet have found the quintessential starting place.