Many of my readers know that Big Little Lies is one of my favorite books. So when the HBO show was announced with Reese Witherspoon involved I was optimistic but skeptical as well. It didn't help that they took the suburban Sydney setting and transplanted it to California- I'm a purist when it comes to adaptations and that didn't sit well. But I'm happy to say after watching the first installment that Big Little Lies is worth a watch.
Is it perfect? No. At times I felt like they were trying too hard, but at the same time it was a surprisingly faithful adaptation (other than the location). Set in Monterey they captured the beauty of the area well, with pounding surf rolling in and the beautiful coastline. And it starts just like the book- we first see the aftermath of a school trivia night gone bad, with a murder victim and lots of witnesses. Funny though- lots of witnesses but there don't seem to be many answers.
And we have a version of one of my favorite parts of the book- the scenes where the various moms and dads carry forth on what they think happened, or more importantly what they think of Madeline and Renata- this all comes down to two power moms and their various retinues. Madeline is played by Reese Witherspoon, and while I didn't picture Madeline from the book as anything like Reese, the casting works. Reese nails it. She has that hyper energetic delivery that captures Madeline to a tee. Nicole Kidman seems perfect as the quiet Celeste- the woman with the seemingly perfect life but a nasty secret. And whereas in the book the secret takes a while to materialize, we see pretty early on here that something bad is happening in her marriage.
Shailene Woodley is Jane, the new mom who helps Madeline out and becomes her fast friend. It's basically the three of them against the Renata entourage- Renata Klein being the woman who is the career powerhouse played by Laura Dern. The gist of the story is that it's the first day of school, and Jane's son Ziggy is accused of bullying and hurting a little girl- Renata Klein's girl. There is some doubt as to whether Ziggy did it- but no matter, Renata is having none of the denials and the battle lines are drawn. Madeline is only too happy to go to war with Renata.
What does this have to do with a murder? Well parents take sides as the spat between Madeline and Renata gets out of hand- and it all culminates at the school trivia night where someone ends up dead. Along the way we find out a lot of secrets, and the book at least is pretty funny at times- whether that will carry over to the show remains to be seen. One quibble I had is that even though most of these parents have money, I didn't really think they all lived in oceanside mansions. Madeline has money as I recall (I read the book a couple years ago) but THAT much money? Her and Nicole and Renata all spend time in this first episode on their decks overlooking the ocean, and it seemed a bit overdone.
As far as the murder goes, if you've read the book you know the deal. I think that we're going to build to it and I also think the show is going to go some places the book didn't- judging from the preview of future episodes we're going to get a bit lurid at times. But there's a lot to unpack here and so far this felt a lot like the book. Plot points I had forgotten- the French nanny, certain characters- this is all going to be fun watching it play out.