Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

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Krampus (2015) Review

Krampus (2015)

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

My Opinion:

I was really excited about going to see this one. A Christmas horror comedy with an evil creature??? Oh my god – I thought it could be the next Gremlins! Well, damn – it’s certainly not as good as Gremlins but I did have fun with it.

This was an odd one. I like “odd” but what I mean is that it was a bit all over the place as it didn’t seem sure of what it wanted to be. It’s certainly much more a comedy than a horror so anyone going to this expecting a violent, gory horror film may be disappointed. Heck, I’d say that the Gremlins kitchen scene is actually much more violent than anything in Krampus. But the tone of Krampus makes it seem like it has a slightly older target audience than Gremlins even though the overall theme is quite “young” and it starts out as a pretty typical family movie. Plus the main star is much younger than Zach Galligan was in Gremlins (although they have a similar look & hairdo):

The problem with Krampus is that I honestly don’t know who I could recommend it to. It’s too scary for older kids, teenagers may be a bit bored, horror lovers won’t like the lack of gore, and comedy lovers may not find it funny enough. I don’t mean to sound negative about it, though, as I did enjoy it. I just think that only a select group of people will like this one. I’m guessing that people my sort of age who grew up liking things like Gremlins will be the ones who go for this.

Krampus feels like it has come straight out of my beloved Eighties and, if it had, it would be a cult classic now. Having been made in 2015, however, may keep this from achieving that status as I’m not sure the current generation will latch onto it. It has very few votes on IMDB (but a decent rating for a horror at 7/10) & it was showing in a very small screen in my cinema even though it just came out last Friday. It’s a shame it’s not getting more attention but I suppose it’s a bit niche.

Krampus starts out pretty damn good. It starts out exactly like a lot of my favorite (and very American) Christmas movies. Most notably: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We get all the typical Christmas stress & annoying relatives who really don’t get along with each other but get together anyway as it’s Christmas. It had a very promising start and I was surprised that it was so heavily focused on “family” and that it felt like something the whole family might watch together. At first…

As expected, this movie gets a bit bonkers about halfway through. Well, I think it was more than halfway and a big part of this film’s problem is that it took too long to get crazy. It goes like this: family comedy… family comedy… family comedy… family comedy… family comedy… family comedy… family comedy… WHAT THE FUCK?!… sudden & disappointing ending. I can’t say it due to spoilers (even though only one or two people here would even know what I’m on about) but I think the director watched the finales of too many 80’s TV shows to come up with that ending. Quick! Someone my age watch this & tell me what the ending made you think of!

Summary:

I don’t know why so many of my reviews end up sounding quite negative. I didn’t mean for this one to sound that way as I did like Krampus. I think I “appreciated” it slightly more than I “liked” it, though. I love the fact that this was made, at least, and want to see more films like it. I’m a big fan of horror comedies (I did a Top Ten HERE and, yes, Gremlins was number one). I think my expectations were too high so that’s why I sound slightly disappointed.

I’d have also liked to see them either up the comedy or up the horror as they didn’t get the balance quite right. The Christmas themes were rather sweet & heartfelt but the director not concentrating more on just one of the movie’s aspects meant that the movie suffered a bit due to a lack of focus. I should point out that the director also made Trick ‘r Treat, which I’ve not seen but I know it has its fans on these blogs. I’m now interested in seeing Trick ‘r Treat to compare the two.

I’m not sure if Krampus will become a Christmas classic that I watch every year but I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it during the holiday season every once in a while. Don’t let me talk you out of seeing it if you think you’d like it as some of you will love it (and, yes, some will hate it). If you grew up with 80’s movies I think it’s more likely that you’ll be the type to appreciate Krampus (especially when it gets a bit crazy in a great, cheesy, retro way). I just wish the madness had started earlier & gone on for far longer.

My Rating: 7/10