Unless it is The Godfather Part 2, sequels are never given an unconditional thumbs-up. There will always be the hardliners asking, what was the need?
Well, 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 Big Little Lies 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 Nicole Kidman’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.
And never mind the ugly teeth prosthetics.
Streep has some strong scenes specially 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 her unstated rebuke. The sequence ends fabulously with Meryl telling the eatery’s attendant to pack what has Renata ordered. “Because we’re going to the same place.”
The courtroom finale 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 whose supporting roles never seem underwritten. In fact Adam Scott who plays Reese Witherspoon’s husband has the funniest scene this season with an old lady friend 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 her murdered son (Alaxander Skarsgard)’s wife-beating personality. Streep’s comments on her son’s sexual misdemeanors makes the character look silly and stubborn, which Streep would have never wanted.
But the dramatic highs, such as the bravura courtroom finals are so exhilarating, one tends to overlook the aberrations. Oh yes, before I forget, India is represented by Poorna Jagganathan whose role is so brief and skimpily sketched that I wondered she has been tomtomming about in the Indian press.
Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO, streaming on Hotstar In India)
Starring Nicole Kidman,Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravits, Meryl Streep
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee,Andrea Arnold
Rating: ****(4 stars)