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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Melancholia (2011) Review

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Melancholia (2011)

Directed by Lars von Trier

Starring:
Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Alexander Skarsgård
Brady Corbet
Cameron Spurr
Charlotte Rampling
Jesper Christensen
John Hurt
Stellan Skarsgård
Udo Kier
Kiefer Sutherland

Running time: 136 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

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My Opinion:

Here’s one of the most-voted-for movies in my recent poll (I already reviewed the top two winners: Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies). I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Lars von Trier film. They’re artsy fartsy & weird, right? I was thinking this was my first von Trier film but, oh yeah!, I actually saw Dancer In The Dark years ago. That was pretty good… I know that probably a good ten years ago I spent quite possibly the most I’ve ever spent on a set of DVDs when I bought something called Riget (The Kingdom – a Lars von Trier TV mini-series from 1994-1997) because I’d read about it & it sounded awesome & I didn’t know who the hell Lars von Trier was. Shit… what did I buy?! I’ve still not watched it all these years later. Has anyone seen it? I’m a little scared now – I hope no one mutilates their genitals in it. Anyway, after all the rambling I’m going to say that I actually liked Melancholia quite a bit! Huh. I was expecting it to be totally pretentious (which I suppose it is) but I also thought it was very beautiful.

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Melancholia is pretentious and artsy fartsy and full of rich wankers with their first world problems & Kirsten Dunst is depressed even though she’s young and rich and beautiful and successful and has an amazing chest. So right away it’s very hard to feel for these people although, as we’re introduced to more of Dunst’s family, we do at least start to feel for her having had to deal with these people in her life (especially her bitch of a mother) and start to understand why she is the way she is. Her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is also very supportive so, as the movie is about the two sisters, it doesn’t get too annoying as these two are bearable. It’s like Frozen with severe depression! Look – shit is shooting from Dunst’s fingers kind of like how ice shoots from Elsa’s!

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This movie is divided into two parts: Part 1 focuses on Dunst & the evening of her wedding while part 2 deals with Gainsbourg’s fear of the strange new planet Melancholia, which she is afraid will collide with Earth. I think a lot of people may struggle with part 1 as you really just watch Dunst in a wedding dress growing more & more depressed but it’s necessary for the character development of the two sisters & seeing what their relationship is like. I have to say I loved the very beginning which was just full of strange & beautiful imagery while classical music played (from Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. I won’t even pretend I didn’t have to look that up – I like some classical music but I’m more of an Iron Maiden fan). So I liked the first half of this film just fine although I think more will prefer the second half in which we watch Melancholia come closer & closer to Earth and the sisters’ roles are reversed. Basically, part 2 is much better (or is more “exciting”, I suppose) as the characters face their impending doom. Yay! I’ve always wanted to say “impending doom“!

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Summary:

Melancholia isn’t for everyone – you’ll probably love it or you’ll hate it. I suppose it is kind of a part of one of my favorite genres: apocalyptic. I’m obsessed with anything apocalyptic so right away I had an interest in checking out this film. I also don’t mind a bit of artsy fartsy pretentiousness now & then (I love things like Daft Punk’s Electroma) so I had no problem with any of that here. Although, it’s a pretty straightforward story and any symbolism isn’t weird or confusing – it all made sense & I actually thought it was a very interesting way to explore depression. I mean, there’s nothing that makes you go “what the HELL is von Trier smoking?“, which is the impression I get about his other films that I haven’t seen. There’s no genital mutilation here or anything. You know, I’m just assuming everyone knows what I’m on about since we’re all movie bloggers but maybe I should point out that this happens in his film Antichrist so some people don’t think I keep mentioning the mutilation thing out of the blue for no reason. I think I probably prefer watching pretty rich people being a little sad to some of Lars von Trier’s other films from what I’ve read of them but I wouldn’t say no to watching some more of his stuff based on Melancholia.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Giver (2014) Review

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The Giver (2014)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Based on The Giver by Lois Lowry

Starring:
Jeff Bridges
Meryl Streep
Brenton Thwaites
Alexander Skarsgård
Odeya Rush
Katie Holmes
Taylor Swift

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Jonas is an 11 (soon to be 12) year old boy in a future where there is no war, suffering or pain. He and his family unit follow strict rules within their community including things such as the precision of language and the sharing of feelings and dreams. Everyone is assigned a role in life at the Ceremony of Twelve and no one is more surprised than Jonas when, at his ceremony, he’s selected as the next Receiver of Memory. During his training, he starts to discover that his community may not be as perfect as it seems.

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My Opinion:

I’ve just read & reviewed this book HERE (and was lazy & used my same plot synopsis). As always, THE BOOK IS BETTER! I mean, sometimes the film adaptations are okay. However, I was really disappointed with this one so, seriously – please read the book if you have any interest in this story! It’s a quick read. They changed A LOT of details for the movie & made a fairly simple story too over complicated.

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As yet another teenage dystopian film, The Giver is okay. It will probably seem boring to teens, though, as it’s not exactly as exciting or action packed as The Hunger Games. I knew they’d do this but it still pissed me off – they added loads of action that wasn’t in the book and gave small characters WAY bigger and more important roles (Meryl Streep’s character has a small part at the start of the book then you never hear from her again plus the two friends aren’t all that significant). It annoyed me as it’s so obvious they’re trying to compete with Divergent, etc, but the book is a lot more subtle and I think the story works much better without all the movie’s added drama (and romance that every teen film seems to require).

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Okay – Focus! Just talk about the movie…

Let’s see – I did like the Pleasantville black & white thing with added bits of color as the story went on. Don’t think that’s a spoiler as it’s obvious from the trailers (yes, it’s that way in the book too). I was looking forward to that aspect (I did love that in Pleasantville) but I didn’t think the movie handled it quite right all the time. The boy isn’t at all what I pictured & they changed an important thing about his looks as described in the book. Jeff Bridges is okay but more “gruff” and bitter than I’d expected. I hated Katie Holmes’ character and hated how they turned it into a story more about Jonas & his two friends whereas in the book the focus is much more on his family unit & the child they’re taking care of (Gabriel). Dammit! This is impossible. I clearly can’t discuss this movie without constantly comparing it to the book. I give up. JUST READ THE BOOK! 🙂

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Summary:

The Giver has a simple yet powerful story that I felt got lost in all the extra scenes they somehow felt necessary to add into the movie to keep teenage audiences interested. Give teenagers a LITTLE credit & don’t just assume they can’t think for themselves. The movie takes the one main theme & shoves it down the viewers’ throats whereas the book presents things in a way that gives the reader the ability to make up their own mind about things. I feel that the movie leaves no room for discussion afterwards and the ending of the movie is a big disappointment compared to the excellent ending in the book. I really have no idea what to rate this movie as, if I’d NOT read the book, I think I’d have quite enjoyed it. However, knowing that the story is told in a much better way in the book does annoy me. Hmm. The movie is decent enough, I guess. Just do me a favor & read the book first? Please??

My Rating: 6/10

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Sorry – this was a rubbish post! I was actually planning on taking a short break from blogging & leaving My Top Ten Carpets & Rugs In Movies as my last post for a while. Go read that HERE instead – that was fun to put together! I’ll start up the reviews again through October with as many horror movies & scary films as I can manage. 🙂