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Big Little Lies - Living the Dream - Review + Poll



It looks very sunny and calm down in Monterey California. Beautiful. Idyllic. Elysian even. But it’s becoming clearer by the minute that the lives of these three friends Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) as well as their adversary Renata (Laura Dern) are anything but. Though we are still unaware of the identity of victim and murderer it’s very evident now that all of the characters in this tale could be either. Some more one than the other but all are covering, lying, threatening, deceiving. Whether it’s through fear or for hiding misdeeds all is definitely not well at this picturesque ocean town.

Living The Dream, written by David E. Kelley and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée is the third episode in this immense, uncomfortable and gutsy series, Big Little Lies. Once again I was drawn in and somewhat hypnotised by the outstanding presentation by the cast and creators. Each sub plot in this murder mystery leaves me uneasy and exposed. And while I know that homicide is the undercurrent of the series I am neither distracted nor can I ignore it.

Probably the most disturbing ‘secret’ being kept is the devastatingly handsome Perry’s vicious, misogynistic and manipulative spousal abuse. His display of coercive control, psychological, emotional and physical abuse of Celeste must surely have him in the running for murderer. Celeste’s response to it is perhaps a familiar tale. In an uncomfortable therapy session we can see that she is conflicted yet it’s not clear if her excuses are driven by guilt or love for her husband or fear of him. After all is it reasonable to have predicted that Perry would want to accompany his wife and daughter to a Frozen singalong? Or even a kid’s party. No. Perhaps the worst part is that Perry is completely self aware. He identifies with the line drawn between passion and rage. This was all about control and Alexander Skarsgård plays this with an unpalatable disconcerting charm. In Living The Dream it is Perry who gives us the soundtrack to the episode by pressing play on Harvest Moon by Neil Young and dancing it out with his wife. Disturbing.

I remain disappointed by the ‘talking heads.’ They add little to the narrative except an unwelcome narration. If it’s necessary to narrate a story then the story is not being told effectively. The thing is that in Big Little Lies the story IS being told effectively without it. As one of the talking heads puts it “Celeste, rich, beautiful, madly in love…something had to be wrong.” It is wrong and we all know it is. We can see the despicable man that Perry is. We don’t need to be told about it.

This week we saw the unraveling of Renata, twice, within the episode threatening mischief onto Madeline, who, by the way, deserved a takedown for playing out her grown up grudges with children. Now I’m not suggesting that Madeline deserves to die for this but she deserved the Renata mama bear rage. I think Renata is one of my favorites. Laura Dern’s performance shines as the impulsive, explosive and loud antagonist.

Ziggy’s impatience to know the name of his father triggers Jane into unravelling her secrets to Madeline. As suspected Jane was the victim of rape and her skittish, almost suicidal persona highlighted the fear she holds deep down: the gun under the pillow offering a protection she doesn’t seem to feel. Jane’s nervous edge produced the very best scene of the show to date. Sitting on her bed a man breaks the window and tries to enter the house only to be shot by Jane. Honestly, I did not see that coming and almost sh*t a brick. Again if you needed a victim or a murderer, then I bring you Jane.
And by the way, what right-minded teacher would give a class ‘family tree’ activity to a child without being sensitive to the family backgrounds of the students? Duh!

Renata's takedown of Madeline was rather justified but it’s clear Madeline herself is having a rough time. Abigail has decided to move in with her father and young, spiritual step mother. I’m not entirely sure I agree with Ed and Madeline that she’s such a mature, self-aware teenager. She’s rather coming across as a spoilt brat. She clearly finds living with her mother a challenge but surely a better way would be to work on that first. Ahh, what do I know?

As Big Little Lies continues to unravel stories and lives Living The Dream was more nuanced and subtle than the first two episodes. Kelley is delayering these characters, exposing their flaws yet making them all likeable. One could even be fooled for a moment with Perry until you see the hideous bruises. I’m no clearer to solving the murder and mystery but with a seemless story from episode to episode I have complete trust.

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