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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Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Review

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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Garner
Jared Leto
Steve Zahn
Dallas Roberts
Michael O’Neill
Denis O’Hare
Griffin Dunne
John Tabler
Jane McNeill
James DuMont

Running time: 116 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Matthew McConaughey stars as AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas when he found them effective at improving his symptoms, distributing them to fellow sufferers by establishing the eponymous “Dallas Buyers Club” whilst facing opposition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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My Opinion:

Matthew McConaughey… I watched & reviewed Mud recently & commented that I’ve never really been a fan of his (other than in Dazed & Confused – he’s hilariously pervy in that). I didn’t LOVE him in Mud but did like that it was a different sort of role to what I’ve seen him do before. Then I saw him in The Wolf Of Wall Street and thought he was great (although we’ve kind of seen him play that smarmy sort of guy before). Well, McConaughey is finally growing on me after Dallas Buyers Club. I really liked him in it & really enjoyed the movie. And since seeing this movie, I’ve also watched the first episode of True Detective. I don’t love the show quite yet (sorry, Eric!) but it seems to have potential & McConaughey is clearly the one to watch. The main reason I’ll be watching a few more episodes will be to see how they develop his character.

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As for this movie, I’ve not looked into how accurate it is compared to the true story but it’s the type of story that’s perfect for a Hollywood adaptation so I can see why it was done. It was fascinating to watch the story unfold. It does go a bit “Hollywood” at times but, hey, what doesn’t? It’s a gritty and a serious subject matter but has great characters & relationships and you can’t help but want a happy Hollywood ending even though you know that’s not going to be the case here. The movie doesn’t focus TOO heavily on all the issues and failures of the FDA (which was fine by me). I think it strikes a good balance between telling us the story & focusing on developing the characters, which is usually just as important (if not more important to me) than a film’s story. McConaughey & Leto are both very good and I think deserving of their Oscar nominations (particularly McConaughey) although wins probably aren’t likely against others nominated. Seriously, though – How many times do I have to type McConaughey before my iPhone recognizes it?! I hope it’s by the time I review Bernie.

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Summary:

Keeping this short as I’ve gotten lazy fallen very behind on writing my own reviews since all the great IMDB guest reviews that have been pouring in. Dallas Buyers Club has a very interesting story with well developed characters and some Oscar worthy acting. You can’t really ask for much more. It’s a solid movie and I’m glad I saw it. It’s also yet another best picture Oscar nominee that’s better than American Hustle. (I still have five more of those to watch before the Oscars – I better hurry!)

My Rating: 8/10

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