tv series

TV series ‘Big Little Lies’ has mothers, mystery and murder (plus Kidman and Witherspoon)

Posh power play in a postcard-pretty place – the adaptation of the Liane Moriarty novel conceals as much as it reveals.

A series premiere, much like the first chapter of a mystery novel, is burdened with the task of luring the audience in so that they may return for another episode. With its idyllic scenery, well-crafted characters, an incredible cast, and hints of a heinous crime, Big Little Lies has this job down pat. The HBO series is being screened on India on Star World Premiere HD.

Based on a 2014 book by Australian author Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies is an ominous tale that conceals as much as it reveals. While the original novel was set in Australia, the show takes the drama to Monterey in California, a perfectly posh and picturesque place made up of flawless families and beautiful houses.

The seven-part series has been created and written by Ally McBeal’s David E Kelley, directed by Oscar-nominated Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and steered by its producers, who include Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. The two actresses are part of a cast that includes Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.

Play
The Big Little Lies trailer.

Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline Martha Mackenzie, a grown-up version of her Election character Tracy Flick. Madeline is a helicopter mom, extremely invested in the lives of her children. She has a beautiful house, a supportive husband, and two daughters (a disinterested teenager, and a way-too-wise for her years first grader). Her kids are her universe, and as they grow up she finds her grasp on her world weakening. So she fills her days (but never more than 20 hours a week!) at the theatre. She also has an ex-husband, whom she hates almost as much as she detests his young yoga instructor wife, Bonnie (Kravitz).

Madeline’s best friend Celeste Wright (Kidman) is a beautiful ex-lawyer, who lives a beautiful life in a beautiful house, with her beautiful twin boys. She carefully selects the perfect pictures of her sons to share on the internet, keeping the enviable image of her flawless life intact for the world outside. But all is not right in the Wright paradise – her relationship with her younger husband, Perry (Skarsgard), is volatile and abusive.

And then there is Jane (Woodley), a single mom, described as a “dusty old Prius parked outside of a Barney’s”. Jane moves to Monterey with her son, Ziggy, in an attempt to escape a seemingly troubled past.

Madeline takes Jane under her wing on day one. When harmless little Ziggy is accused of assaulting his new classmate, Amabella, Jane finds an ally in Madeline.

Laura Dern is Renata, Amabella’s mother and Madeline’s enemy on the playground. She balances board meetings and school-drops offs, but is clearly insecure about what the stay-at-home mothers think about her. Dern is wonderfully malicious, and very angry.

Play
Big Little Lies: First Day at school.

The voiceover that runs through the series confirms that this incident in school, and the unlikely friendship between Madeline, Celeste and Jane, set events in motion.

The event in question here is a murder. The series plays out in flashback, in which the police are investigating a murder that took place on the night of a fundraiser. We know that the pelvis is fractured and there is an injury at the back of the skull. What we don’t know is who is dead and why they were killed. But a Greek chorus in the police interrogation room, composed of minor characters, fills in the gaps in knowledge, verifying that the three leads are intricately involved.

Who thought an elementary school could be such a vile and vicious place? The competition, envy and back-biting are served up with the vital politics of niceness, and the never-ending battle between the stay-at-home and the working mothers. Madeline says, “This is Monterey! We pound people with Nice.” “To death,” Celeste adds.

It may seem like posh power play, but look deeper and you’ll find the limited series discusses the dynamics of female relationships. It is being referred to as a feminist show, and while there are no sword-brandishing, dragon-riding heroines here, it is fiercely and defiantly female. They may be insecure, angry, bitter, bitchy, vulnerable, and ultimately even murder-y, but they are unfiltered women. The male characters, at least in the first episode, are either silent support systems (Scott), abusive bullies (Skarsgård) or simply annoyances (Tupper).

Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction adds volume to the themes of loneliness and isolation, with scenic wide shots, empty spaces and stark silences in contrast to the high-pitched and excessively busy indulgence in their kids. There may be a murder, but it clearly isn’t the most fascinating element of this mystery-comedy-drama.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.