Director: Jean-Marc Vallee and Andrea Arnold
"Big Little Lies, Season 2" | It floats with hope
Unless you think of ‘The Godfather Part 2’, very few sequels are given an unconditional thumbs-up . There will always be the hardliners asking, “what was the need for this?”
‘Big Little Lies’, which made a grand impact last year is back with another season. And with reason. There is so much of a story left to tell. The five protagonists, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Renata (Laura Dern) and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) have so much left to say and feel.
In its second season, the show remains as compelling and saturated in the screaming silences of lives that are brought to the brink, as it was in Season 1. The Big Event in Season 2 is of course the untouchable Meryl Streep. Her television debut as Celeste’s mother-in- law is imbued in intuitive innuendos. It’s not so much what Meryl says as what she doesn’t say that makes the character of the mother – who won’t accept her son’s murder as an accident – so palpable and urgent.
Streep has some strong scenes, especially one where Renata (Laura Dern, blissfully over-the-top in Season 2 as well) screams at and taunts Streep in an eatery. Streep simply silences the screaming socialite with a rebuke. The sequence ends fabulously with Streep telling the eatery’s attendant to pack what Renata has ordered, “because we’re going to the same place”.
The courtroom finalé would have looked like showcase for Steep and Kidman’s combined charisma were it nor for the fact that the writing is never awed by the formidable cast – not just the women, but also the male actors in supporting roles whose roles are never underwritten.
In fact Adam Scott, who plays Madeline’s husband has the funniest scene this season, with an old ladyfriend in a supermarket, who tells him she looks different as she had breast implants done.
The narrative stretching into seven episodes has heft and resonance. Conflicts among the women never appear manufactured or strained. The entire scenario, painted into a luscious landscape of seas and mountains, is superbly imaged. What seemed a little hard to believe was Meryl Streep’s absolute denial of the wife-beating personality of her murdered son (Alexander Skarsgård). Streep’s comments on her son’s sexual misdemeanours makes the character Alook silly and stubborn, which Streep would have never wanted.
But the dramatic highs, such as the bravura courtroom finalé is so exhilarating, one tends to overlook the aberrations. Oh yes, before I forget, India is respresented by Poorna Jagganathan whose role is so brief and skimpily sketched that I wonder why she has been tom-tomming about it in the Indian press.
(In India, ‘Big Little Lies’ streams on Hotstar).