“Big Little Lies” (Series) – Illusion of the Ideal [review]

Big Little Lies


Title: “Big Little Lies” (HBO series)

Release Date: 2017

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper, Darby Camp, Adam Scott, Meryl Streep




The HBO series “Big Little Lies” delighted viewers with a great script and phenomenal female performances. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern, and in the second season also Meryl Streep are a plethora of stars who allowed viewers to delve into the intricate fates of female characters, united by the universal experience of motherhood. Beautiful, mostly wealthy and influential women here hide dark secrets under the guise of an ideal life. And here it turns out that quite common problems exist even in sun bathed California, and the exemplary picture of a luxurious existence is the biggest possible lie.

“Big Little Lies” – once upon a time in California

The plot of “Big Little Lies” is set in the fabulous scenery of California. The heroines of the story drive top-class cars and live in stunning villas with a magnificent view of the ocean. The series begins at an important moment for all the characters featured here: their children start school and end up in the same class. This is an important life stage for both several-year-old kids and entire families, especially mothers who face new challenges. Finding their children in the school reality, first educational problems, establishing relationships with peers are all things that preoccupy the minds of women driving their treasures to school on the first day.

Former lawyer Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) brings her two twin sons, the wife of wealthy IT specialist Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) accompanies her daughter, and well-known local businesswoman Renata Klein (Laura Dern) also shows up with her daughter. The only one who doesn’t fit into this company is Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), a new resident of the town, a single mother who enrolls her son Ziggy in the same school. It soon becomes apparent that one of the female students in the class is being bullied, and suspicion falls precisely on Ziggy. Celeste and Madeleine, despite the tense situation, show support for Jane, who hides a dark secret from the past.

Big Little Lies series review

“Big Little Lies” – a great success of the series

“Big Little Lies” produced by Pacific Standard, Blossom Films and David E. Kelley Productions in 2017 was a huge media success. The picture was based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. Two closely related storyline seasons were produced. In the second, Meryl Streep joined the cast, bravely playing Celste’s mother-in-law, who helps her take care of her grandchildren. The series was purchased by the HBO platform. Distinguished for its ingenuity and depth of female portrayals, the production was rightly showered with prestigious awards.

“Big Little Lies” won, among other awards, four Golden Globes and eight Emmy statuettes. Both the former and latter honors included roles for Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard. In addition, the production won Emmys for Best Limited Series, Best Direction (for Jean-Marc Vallee), Best Musical Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Cast Selection. All these elements are unquestionable strengths of “Big Little Lies”. The very lead of the production is a real masterpiece.

Shots of mothers driving their children to school along the highway by the ocean to the sound of Michael Kiwanuka’s song “Cold Little Heart” introduce the unique atmosphere of the film. Then, against the background of sea waves splashing against the rocks, the outlines of naked bodies in erotic poses emerge. The ocean becomes an element of unbridled passion and hidden desires. We also see the entire school class as each student approaches the camera and makes a “face,” suggesting the imitation of adults and their constant play before the world. And at the end, the show’s female characters appear in evening gowns, making similar gestures to the children, which refers to the first season’s finale – the school ball – which is important for the course of events. It also introduces a signal of the mystery that lies within each of the characters and a quasi-criminal puzzle to be solved.

Big Little Lies HBO series analysis

“Big Little Lies” – portraits of (in)ideal mothers

“Big Little Lies” draws attention to the variety of exquisite female portraits. All the heroines are united by their status as mothers, so in essence they are images of women-mothers trying to conform to the exorbitant social demands. They all build up the semblance of ideal, tireless parenting women leading comfortable lives free of worldly concerns. Social status and affluence make this task much easier, but they do not at all eliminate real existential problems. The creators of the series have adopted a fractious perspective of showing events, thanks to which we see the world only from the perspective of the heroines – so we have access only to what they want to reveal, but not so much to others as to themselves. Therefore, it is a mixture of distorted reflections and clichés, which only through the process of confronting the characters with their fears begin to reveal the truth to the viewer.

Celeste hides her secrets under the guise of a passionate relationship with her husband, Madeline plays a tough woman who, after being abandoned by her spouse, impressively rebuilt her life alongside a sensitive partner, and Renata masks her childhood complexes with the pursuit of luxury and success. Jane, on the other hand, deprived of the protective umbrella of wealth, pretends that single motherhood is a path she has independently and consciously chosen. Also a very interesting character is Bonnie Carlson, played by Zoe Kravitz, the second wife of Madeline’s ex-husband, who fences herself off from the world with obsessive ecology, yoga and healthy living. In the second season, on the other hand, the real show off is given by Meryl Streep as the “perfect” mother-in-law and grandmother in the clash with Celste. If, before “Big Little Lies,” someone was under the impression that he had already met all the incarnations of Streep, this production will certainly sway him from his error.

In a way, the series debunks society’s notion of motherhood as a role in which any woman can achieve excellence. Being a mother is not suspended in a vacuum and isolated from other functions. It exists in a specific context: personal, family, environmental or financial. All of life’s situations constantly shape motherhood, which is more of an unpredictable process than a constant. And even the most precise plan must be confronted with hard reality.

The series “Big Little Lies” – the illusion of wealth

“Big Little Lies”, also thanks to the confrontation of female characters of different social status, show the egalitarianism of life’s challenges regardless of the degree of wealth. Money, success and social respectability can only be a glitter masking the truth. In love disappointments, life disappointments or parenting challenges, we are equal. Fate also distributes pathological circumstances equally. Violence can hide under the guise of the greatest affection and take place in luxurious interiors. And residents of fabulous California villas by the ocean when confronted with evil can be as helpless as we are and create their “big lies,” just to live a better version of their lives, the one meant for others, at least for a while.