Even reading summaries of Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel Big Little Lies is a disorienting experience — it’s hard to keep track of the abuse. Abuse lurks everywhere. Domestic violence and rape are the prime drivers of the plot — with the bullying gene filtering down even to the kids. And following abuse the way lightning follows thunder are the lies of the title. Big and little are just two ways of describing the falsehoods — constant, poisonous, irreversible and cruel are others that spring to mind. Yet, against all odds it’s a funny book, too.
Which is where producer David E. Kelley comes in with his star-studded HBO ensemble bringing the characters to life. Kelley is a genius as taking seemingly two-dimensional characters and stylizing them so richly they become not just three-dimensional but like virtual reality — allegories in the flesh. (Nowhere did he do this better than with Ally McBeal, a poignant sort of cartoon realism.) USA Today called Big Little Lies “a fun, engaging and sometimes disturbing read.” (Sort of like how coverage of the Trump campaign started out.) As the reviews indicate, Moriarty strikes a near perfect balance with her story. Kelley’s customary sheen doesn’t hide her story’s brutality, but somehow makes both brighter and more grotesque. Nicole Kidman, too, is an expert at this trick.