Updated: Jun 18, 2020
As a student of Literature, I am no stranger to the phrase “the book is better.” I think readers often develop a strong relationship between novels and their own imagination. Words allow for flexibility of picture. Whereas, on film, what you see on the screen is what you get. I have been a fan of Liane Moriarty for many years now. She is a brilliant author and I would recommend her work to anyone. When I first read her best-selling novel, Big Little Lies, I could not put it down for days. The story is compelling, important, and so brutal. Her characters are relatable, complicated, and extremely raw. When I learned of its move to the big screen, I was elated. I was especially compelled to see how the novel’s three female leads would translate on television.
Big Little Lies first premiered on HBO in 2017. The series is anchored by a murder mystery in which the victim and murder remain in question throughout most of season one. The show takes its watchers to suburban Monterey, California where the secrets of three upper-class mothers unfold. Reece Witherspoon plays Madeline Mackenzie, a mother of two struggling to cope with the new marriage of her ex-husband as well as participate in her own second marriage. Witherspoon’s performance is superb as she brings to life an alpha-woman character battling hidden insecurities. It is Madeline’s complicated psychology that I believe makes her character believable and untrustworthy at the same time. Nicole Kidman joins the cast as Celeste Wright, a retired lawyer, and mother of twins in a seemingly loving marriage. As season one unfolds; however, it becomes abundantly clear that the nature of Celeste’s marriage does not match its outward appearance. Behind doors, the couple engages in physical abuse which often ends in a night of sex. Kidman’s Celeste is a highly sophisticated and educated woman with a strong backbone. Her character’s willingness to remain in an abusive marriage explores the nature of mutual spousal abuse in an upper-class setting. Finally, Shailene Woodley stars as Jane Chapman, a young single mom of one who struggles with unknown demons. The relationship between the three mothers develops to reveal their heart-wrenching struggles, deep secrets, and ultimately solve the central murder mystery.
Big Little Lies has proven to be just as impactful on screen as on paper. The cast does not disappoint. The leading actresses are extremely talented and create characters that you can imagine walking around your own neighborhood streets. The show will shock you, touch you, and break your heart. It navigates the world of broken marriages, motherhood, and female friendship. This series makes the phrase, “the book is better” incorrect. I recommend you give it a watch.
Big Little Lies is available for streaming on HBO.