I heard about Big Little Lies the same way that everyone else did. The trailer dropped and I said “Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz all play moms of the same age kids?”
I set up my DVR to record it immediately and when it popped up, I watched the pilot in shock and awe. But as many of us writers do, I headed out to the store and read the whole book before the second episode came out. (I did the same thing with Outlander many years ago. A pilot is just like a reeeaaaalllly long book trailer to me, I swear.)
Big Little Lies is totally not in my genre, but the brilliance of it is that it’s so intriguing that I barely noticed. I couldn’t put it down! I had to know what happened to Jane, if Ziggy was innocent, and who died. From my own school days, I remember all the parent drama that used to fly. So the idea that it could end in murder? Exciting.
I continued to watch the series after reading the book (although I almost stopped after a few over-the-top HBO scenes). In the end, I’m glad I did. It was a well done show! Well acted and well written, but I always have some complaints when they turn a book into a show.
What the series got right:
- The overarching eerie mystery of who is hurting Amabella. They struck the tone well and made Ziggy seem sweet, but a little off, so that we do question him.
- The casting was perfect. There’s not a single actor I would change. Reese Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline and their choices for the kids were excellent too.
- Laura Dern as Renata deserves her own line here. Renata is an off putting, powerful, in-your-face, drama mama. And Laura Dern plays the weariness of her so well. She’s overworked, exhausted, and clear concerned that she’s not a good enough mom. I’ve seen that in so many real moms and I loved seeing it so accurately portrayed on screen.
What I’m sad they changed:
- Why the hell did they have to make Madeline have an affair? It just seems over the top. I get that they needed to stretch one book into a whole mini-series, but seriously? Her husband was one of my favorite characters in the book and I enjoyed their dynamic. Madeline steamrollered him constantly, but he loved her anyway.
- No back story for Bonnie! I miss getting to know a little bit about why she did what she did, but I also appreciated how they really highlighted the way Madeline was willing to go to bat for her.
- The final sequence left out the husbands! I really liked the fact that it was husbands and wives together, facing down their demons and covering for each other. I really missed that in the show! I think they were going for a girl power moment, but it felt misplaced to me. This book is all about marriage and relationships, after all.
What I liked that they added:
- Those opening credits were awesome. I love the idea of the shots from the backseat of the car- how the kids see their moms! So brilliant. And it set the tone so well for the show.
- Yoga class. This was a small scene, but I got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of the feuding parents stuck in yoga class together.
- The expanded drama of Amabella’s birthday party. I liked the twist of the moms judging Bonnie for being too sexy.
For anyone who just watched the show: read the book! It’s even better!