Big Little Lies: Full Miniseries
April 3, 2017 6:49 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

All is not what it seems in this dark comedy set in an idyllic seaside California town, where success, affluence and privilege are slowly but surely undone by secrets, rivalries, deception and murder. Based on Australian Liane Moriarty's novel.

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posted by everybody had matching towels (24 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been this into a series that wasn't scifi in a long time! Love the soundtrack, love the acting, love the houses. Perry was so convincing that I had a hard time looking at him. Even though I had guessed the ending, I was surprised by the final push. I know that Reese didn't have the affair in the book, but I liked that it gave her an additional lie to carry with her. I liked Chekhov's tennis racquet.
posted by armacy at 7:01 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this series. There were times I felt like it was hard to care about all these rich white people and their problems, but as the series progressed it became clear that the problems were a bit bigger than it first appeared.

The men were all testosterone-fueled assholes, weren't they? Even timid little Adam Scott seemed like he maybe knew where a body was buried somewhere.

Nichole Kidman was amazing. Her accent poked through here and there (especially in the car during the finale) but she should probably get an Emmy for this.

Resse Witherspoon's little girl was the most unrealistic six (?) year-old ever. I'm glad they didn't show too much of her.

The Therapist was played by Robin Weigart, who played Calamity Jane in Deadwood, one of the most incredible performances I've ever seen. Nice to see her in a different role.

I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. Yes, I was glad to see abuser/rapist Perry get got, though it felt like his death was clearly in self defense so I'm not sure why what happened to him had to be kept secret. Perhaps I'm naive but it seems like he was attempting to kill Celeste and Bonnie pushed him to prevent that from happening, and clearly didn't intend to kill him. Maybe at the very least it would have resulted in a long trial and, being a woman of color, perhaps it could have ended badly for Bonnie.

The A/V Club review said that the book got more into Bonnie's backstory and she had a history of being abused. If they touched on that in the series, I missed it.

I really felt for Jane. It's really difficult being a parent when you suspect your child has done wrong but you want to believe they're telling the truth. What do you do? I'm glad it was resolved the way it was. I'm also glad the ending wasn't Jane shooting Perry, as much as we all wanted that revenge to take place, because then she'd have just ended up in prison, helping no one. I did suspect all along that Perry was going to end up being her rapist.

So yes, a decent series with some really strong roles and some stellar performances by women. I hope HBO has more like it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:15 AM on April 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Called it! (mostly)

I really liked the series. I liked just about everything about it.

I'm also really glad that miniseries are making a comeback. That's the way a book should be done for television (I'm looking at you Under the Dome).
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The third paragraph nails it for me.
posted by gaspode at 8:20 AM on April 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

About the time they started rounding Renata's character out from the brittle stereotype she started as, I became really invested in this show. I liked that in the end -- Renata with Jane, Madeleine opening up and talking to her eldest daughter -- these characters spoke to each other about important things, and listened, and believed.

And everyone should see Ziggy review Broadway plays and sing the Origin of Love.
posted by rewil at 8:36 AM on April 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

I found the most moving part of the finale how Madeline and Ed interacted as Ed realizes that Madeline had an affair, but he still pours out his heart to her in his song. Madeline knows he knows and regrets not telling him earlier, so that he has to come to terms in this very public setting. I would have liked to see them talk it out and reconcile.

I was put off by how testosterone-fueled ALL the men were. I'm not sure why Renata's husband need to be so aggressive, and he even managed to get the barista to fan his feathers.

What part of that night was a trivia night???? I heard one trivia question and all the Greek chorus referred to it as trivia night, but it seemed much more to be a costume party and talent show.

Loved this show, and have a new-found appreciation for Nicole Kidman in particular. I've always admired Laura Dern, but really loved what she did with this character.
posted by Sukey Says at 11:52 AM on April 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

A tour de force performance by Kidman and SkarsgÄrd, but Kidman was the true star, delivering an amazing portrayal. This was career defining and she was clearly at the absolute top of her game.

The soundtrack and direction were top notch.

Too bad the ending was so incredibly underwhelming. There was a lot of great setup to who would be murdered and who would do the murdering, but ultimately it felt rote in the end, though the direction of Bonnie figuring out what Perry's abuse was brilliantly depicted. But the series wasn't really the murder in the end, so it's ok. Just wish it hadn't be so mundane in its obviousness.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Burhanistan: I'm still not thrilled about the unlikely probability that Celeste's husband was the same rapist that raped Jane even though it does lend more metaphor to the narrative.

I thought that's what all the scenes of Ziggy questioning Jane about why they moved there were about (in particular, how she'd give evasive answers which he'd clearly not believe).

I thought this was supposed to give the impression that she did move there for a reason, and just assumed she was actually looking for her rapist. (Though granted I never did see her say anything I remember now about why she might think he was in that area.)

Watching with this impression meant that it all made perfect (albeit very convenient) sense. Did I make this up wholecloth or were there others that had been watching under this same impression?
posted by pseudonymph at 7:28 PM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I mostly liked the show better than the book, but I think the ending of the book, with all its realizations, was so much better. For instance, the book explains why Jane thought he had this other name, and why she moved to the town (not sure if I should explain here), and the Bonnie background stuff is explained. I did love that scene on the beach though.
posted by lunasol at 7:41 PM on April 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

It depicted a very vivid and realistic depiction of domestic violence. Kidman was excellent and I became fascinated just looking at Calamity Jane.
posted by Fat Buddha at 6:19 AM on April 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the improbability/convenience of them moving to the same town where ziggy's father/jane's rapist lives is sort of the schrodinger's cat of the show. I personally thought it was far fetched, my spouse who we watched with subscribed to pseudonymph's theory that it wasn't as lucky/accidental as jane made it seem. but then why did she go to SLO for the other guy if she knew he lived in Monterrey?

lunasol- id be up for hearing about how the book ending differed, I wouldthink that should be fine here since the series is over - its all spoilers and conjecture from here.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 6:47 AM on April 4, 2017

the book explains why Jane thought he had this other name

Me too, lunasol, especially the name part, if you don't mind!

Was there the sound of a Zippo-type lighter during the scene at the very end observing the women on the beach from afar? Was it supposed to be one of the detectives?
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:15 AM on April 4, 2017

OK, here's the explanation for why she thought he had this other name, and why she moved to Monterrey (or the Australian version of Monterrey in the book) - SPOILERS if you're planning to read the book:

The name: He did give her the name Saxon Banks. When Celeste found out, she was horrified because Saxon Banks is Perry's cousin who lives on the other side of Sydney. So she spends a lot of time thinking the two of them have some sort of terrible violent psychopath gene. Another twist is that, in the book, the event that turns Jane and Percy's night from consensual to assault is when he tries to choke her and she protests. Obvious parallels to the kindergarten bullying storyline. In the end, it turns out that Perry looked up to Saxon and used his name when he went to pick up women at bars. IIRC, Jane never confronted the real Saxon in the book. It's pretty soapy but worked in the book.

Why she moved to Monterrey: I don't think this is ever explicit, but it is implied in her POV chapters that she knows she's kind of lying to herself, and that she knew "Saxon Banks" lived there from the beginning and wanted to see what he was like.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 AM on April 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

this series almost lost me last week with the virginity auction subplot, where the David E. Kelleyness of this whole enterprise really rose up and smacked me in the face and my brain called forth a memory of a terrible Picket Fences episode about The Internet, but man, solid finish here
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:51 AM on April 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

The third paragraph nails it for me.

Now that I've read that - yeah, that's pretty much was I was going to say. I found it incredibly powerful that however these women have treated each other so far - some good, some awful - despite competitions and personal dramas.. in the sudden face of a serious threat to one of them, they drop all of it and band together to protect her.

I also love the continued snide comments from the rest of the public inserted along the way - and how our reactions to them have changed along the course of the series. It was one thing early on when we didn't know all the characters and histories yet, but here at the end to include the voices of the ignorant crowds hating on people they find "too perfect" or whatever, even as those people's lives are totally melting down right then and there. That dissonance was great.
posted by dnash at 11:58 AM on April 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I have to say, I was a tad disappointed to not get Bonnie's backstory (mostly because I kind of wish they'd revealed it earlier to give the only non-white main character some more nuance) BUT it was really thrilling to see her just run in like that, like an avenging angel. And in a way, we don't need her backstory to be explained in that moment - we can see from her suspicious looks and the way she follows Perry that she knows from experience that something is up. Her entire body language changed in those moments.
posted by lunasol at 12:58 PM on April 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

Loved it, the performances, the (unrealistic) kids, everything. Especially liked how what seemed to be the (or a) central conflict, between Jane and Renata over Amabella's bullying, is completely defused in the last episode, with both women (and Madeline) apologising, empathising with each other, etc.
The central 4 characters are all deep and complex and sympathetic, even Renata at the end, which is saying a lot these days, especially when they're all women.
posted by signal at 6:36 AM on April 5, 2017

Yeah, I have to say, I was a tad disappointed to not get Bonnie's backstory (mostly because I kind of wish they'd revealed it earlier to give the only non-white main character some more nuance) BUT it was really thrilling to see her just run in like that, like an avenging angel.

I am somewhat bothered that the lone black character turns to be the "murderer". Throw in the that she's a calm person, who suddenly has a fit of rage (for understandable reasons) and it's not hard to see all types of stereotypes raising their heads.

Not a big deal, but something that could have been avoided by having more than one black character among the main characters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on April 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

Jane Chapman seems to be some kind of professional jogger in this show.

This had a lot of elements I dislike (centering on massively rich white ppl and their family woes, overuse of music, too much color grading, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon in general). There were parts I wasn't a big fan of: the intrusiveness of the Greek chorus flash forwards in the early episodes, then later on how that's all kind of a red herring. I didn't like that Woodley's character didn't go to Monterrey looking for Saxon Banks. I had minor grumbling thoughts about it being a SoCalization of a NorCal location. I was even kind of suspicious of the fourth wall breaking in the opening credits where all the kids and moms do a turn in front of the camera, even though I found it really charming.

Despite all that (or maybe partially because all that), it was very watchable. I have a soft spot for stories where people help each other out and cover for each other, and achieve some kind of happy ending. I think once it was clear the therapist was going to help Renata, and Ziggy wasn't the bully, that the happiest ending was possible, and I kinda love that they just went for it, killed the monster, and had all the moms and kids on the beach happy and bein' best friends.

What helps extremely is that the show is stuffed full of very good actors who all did some very good performances. Kidman especially, but I feel like it goes down the line, I even liked Dern and Witherspoon pouring it on too hard, which seemed called for in this show. The characters by themselves are hella generic and don't have very believable relationships to me... with average-y actors I think the show would have been stuff I couldn't watch at all.

Was there the sound of a Zippo-type lighter during the scene at the very end observing the women on the beach from afar? Was it supposed to be one of the detectives?

Yeah, both at the funeral and at the beach at the end. Too bad the cops will never catch them and they will be happy forever.
posted by fleacircus at 6:05 AM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of Emmy Nominations.
posted by unliteral at 5:32 PM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm curious how they're going to make a second season, and a bit worried too, but think that this was a great show. I was put off at first by the extreme bourgie-ness of everything in the first episode, but the overarching mystery storyline is quite good, and a nice hook for deeper character explorations that serve to flesh out a number of stock stereotypes.

I can't remember exactly, but there is a scene in the second or third episode where Jane is talking to her mother on the phone, and her mom asks why she chose to move to Monterey (I guess the implication being that it's expensive and a crowded market for an accountant) and Jane is elusive. I read that to mean that Jane has already done some detective work herself, and has an inclination that her rapist was from the area. That's further solidified by the fact that she's taking target practice, and has frequent nightmares and fantasies about extracting revenge.
posted by codacorolla at 10:24 AM on September 10, 2018

From what we're given in the show, I don't think we have to interpret Perry as literally Jane's rapist. Like a lot of you have said, that seemed pretty unlikely, so I took it as a representation of Jane recognizing, in that moment, the same kind of violence in Perry as in her rapist. That may not be workable after next season, but I think it's a pretty defensible reading of what's presented in the show so far.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:11 PM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had the same interpretation when I saw the finale, vibratory manner of working. That's probably because I assumed that we would never know who Jane's rapist was, just like I assumed we would never know whether it was Ziggy or someone else who choked Amabella. For some reason I always assume when I'm watching a 'prestige' drama that they'll leave these kinds of questions unanswered, and I end up not being surprised by the answers themselves, but mostly that the answers were presented at all.
posted by skewed at 9:00 AM on June 25, 2019

This was one of those shows I think I probably won't like but that seem to deserve a fair shot. So, I watched the first episode expecting that I probably wouldn't go beyond the first episode, and ended up getting totally hooked.

One of the things I expected would be a problem for me was that, as other people have said, the show might involve a lot of shallow, spoiled, rich white people whining about their lives, and being all hypercompetitive about their parenting and lifestyles. And there is indeed some of that (with Renata and Madeline coming closest to fitting the stereotype), but all of these women do have a lot on their plates. There was something about Celeste's horror show of a marriage playing out against the backdrop of her pristine, magazine spread life that really got to me.

The cast is incredible and they make the material work, even when the writing sucks. Chloe is impossibly precocious -- her dialogue would be striking even in a 12-year-old -- but little Darby Camp carries it off as well as anyone could.

Zoe Kravitz is so much like her mother. It almost messes with my head a little bit, because her expressions or affect or voice (not to mention the way they've styled her) sometimes make me feel like I must have gotten into some kind of time warp and am watching the young Lisa Bonet again.

Do the Big Little Lies opening credits remind anyone else of Boardwalk Empire's opening credits? There's something about the combination of the dashing ocean waves and the blaring music that always makes me think of it, and that evokes a similar response in me, even though it's just... moms driving their kids to school.
posted by orange swan at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2019

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