Critical Condition: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies (SoHo, 8.30 Sundays)

Big Little Lies juxtaposes the mystery of a suspicious death with the seemingly perfect everyday lives of a group of mostly prosperous women. The main characters, all suspects in the mystery, are linked because their children attend the same progressive elementary school in Monterey, Calif., which is said to be ‘a private school at a public-school price’. Their lives, of course, are anything but perfect, and the show’s drama comes from unspooling the tangles of violence, infidelity and frustration just below the surface … But the mystery is a sham, and the drama doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say.” — New York Times.

“They’re mostly rich. They’re mostly white. They day drink, go to yoga and eye each other suspiciously each morning at school drop-off. And, maybe, they kill people. They’re the women at the center of Big Little Lies, an engrossing but glib murder mystery-cum-social satire set among the moneyed mommies of Monterey, Calif. In the grand tradition of Divorce and The Affair, this seven-part miniseries is the latest premium-cable tale of middle-aged Caucasians having torrid sex, not always with their spouses, in multimillion-dollar waterfront homes.” — Los Angeles Times.

“The series is so exquisitely conceived and structured — and so remarkably acted by a top-notch cast that includes two of Hollywood’s most resolute performers, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon — that the soapy layer quickly rinses away in the first episode. What remains is a deeply absorbing, highly addictive murder mystery matched with a carefully considered psychological work-up of an elite community.” — The Washington Post.

“Lately many serialised dramas have depended on circuitous plotting to keep viewers watching week-to-week. HBO alone has Westworld and Game of Thrones for this. Big Little Lies has a similar suffusion of mystery, but watching the show isn’t about waiting for the big reveal. The show’s strength is that it makes the experience of inevitable catastrophe so watchable, like being enraptured by a car-crash in slow motion. You live with creeping dread, and so do the characters.” — Variety.

“Unfortunately, Big Little Lies feels a lot like a soapy ABC drama, with nudity. That will probably be a huge endorsement for some, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting a sprawling, A-list heavy melodrama and murder mystery, but the endeavour seems to be constantly pushing its take-me-seriously tone and getting in the way of the fun. It’s precisely that rigorous pursuit of gravitas that makes Big Little Lies so divisive.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

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