‘Big Little Lies’ aired on HBO (www.hbo.com) this past February. It’s a fantastic take on serious mothering, ex-wives, and schoolyard drama. It also explores the lies we tell ourselves to survive. ‘Big Little Lies’ stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley and tells the story of three emotionally troubled women in Monterey, California, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation.
Nicole Kidman decided to play Celeste Wright when she first met the novel’s author, Liane Moriarty, and they struck a deal: If the Academy Award-winning actress played the lawyer-turned-abused-housewife, Moriarty would grant her and Reese Witherspoon the rights to the project, according to Entertainment Weekly. (www.entertainmentweekly.com). However, that agreement led Kidman down an intense experience (both as an actress and a person), where she endured long days of playing physically and emotionally draining scenes opposite Alexander Skarsgård, who portrayed Perry Wright, her handsome, charming, and abusive husband. The result is some of Kidman’s most beautiful work of her career.
‘Big Little Lies’ is from talented Creator and Writer David E. Kelley. Jean-Marc Valle directs every episode. For season one, the seven-episode series starts as a tale of over-privileged moms and their families trying so hard for perfection status. It all takes place in idyllic Monterey, California. The scenery and homes are gorgeous and who could not love that life, right? However, like with most families, everything is not what it seems behind closed doors. In the beginning, there is your share of female bitchiness and serious mom drama that must resemble a dramatic play to Jane, who is new to town and played by Shailene Woodley. Her character, Jane, is the most genuine and down to earth. She is not privileged, and ironically, Madeline, the most high-maintenance of all, takes her “under her wing.” Since the competitive mothering is at maximum level at moments, many comedic elements help release the tension.
The five fierce women that comprise the story are: Reese Witherspoon (plays Madeline McKenzie and a serious go-getter), Shailene Woodley (she plays Jane and the wounded single mom ), Zoe Kravitz (Bohemian goddess and yoga instructor Bonnie, and Laura Dern (who plays Reneta with a severe power woman career complex) hell-bent on throwing her daughter an epic Birthday. ALL the women are incredible in their performances. Then our standout: Celeste Wright played beautifully and authentically by Nicole Kidman.
Celeste is a magical force who touches upon real-life tragedy. Although all the women have serious issues, Celeste is slowly losing herself and fighting for her life simultaneously. Celeste Wright is a former lawyer who on the surface looks happy with her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) and sweet twin boys. Beneath the beautiful house and the adorable kids, there’s darkness: He abuses her to the point where she has to hide her bruises, and she seriously thinks about leaving him. The abuse becomes a big little lie and eventually hard to hide.
Here are three reasons Celeste Wight is such a compelling character:
- She truly brings to light what domestic abuse feels like– psychologically and physically — the rage, physical pain, fear, stoicism, denial, and shame. She’s always trying not to set Perry off. It’s an exhausting secret and process; yet, Celeste is not ready to leave and break the family. After a while, it even becomes somewhat normal to her. There are such sadness and painfulness about her, yet while remaining stunningly beautiful. At certain moments you would think that her best friend, (played by Reese Witherspoon) would pick up on it. She doesn’t though. You would also assume that Celeste would reveal this (she finally does, to a therapist). The audience can see and feel the shame within Celeste and the intense desire not to disclose.
- She remains a good mother. Celeste has done what so many of us moms do — devote our lives to raising our children. Celeste left her career as a lawyer to raise her twin boys. She feels that her boys are not aware of what’s happening at home until her son, Max, starts bullying a fellow girl classmate. Once her son confesses, her reaction is surprisingly loving. Instead of yelling and punishing him, she embraces his pain and explains he’s not a bad person that sometimes, good people do bad things. Celeste takes responsibility and knows this incident is the result of faulty parenting. Once she sees that her twin boys are absorbing everything in their family and they are sufficiently affected, it’s over. This moment is such a poignant one because so many women can relate to putting up with such a toxic situation until they see their kids lash out.
- The complexity of mixed emotions Celeste goes through is very raw. Celeste experiences many feelings and even a sense of downplaying the severity of her situation. She is entirely under Perry’s control (within her mind), and realistically, it’s not always easy to leave. Nicole Kidman did the majority of her stunts and genuinely wanted to live the life of an abused woman. She has stated through many press junkets that there was a lot of weeping and bruises (after the director called cut) but knew it was necessary for Celeste to get into her psyche honestly. One gets the feeling that the talented actress did not realize herself how hard it was going to be, which only enhances her performance. The very first time Perry hits Celeste comes as a bit of a surprise, and at that point, you know that this story will take a severe turn.
On an end note, it’s inspiring to see the women come together towards the finale and genuinely support each other. There is no cattiness. It’s no longer about who has the most expensive car, the best clothes, and the most important career. Instead, it’s a lesson about women standing up for each other. There will be a Season 2 and we can’t wait to see how all the women develop. There are so many talented actresses where endless character development is possible.
The series itself is such a success. It’s been nominated for countless Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. Nicole Kidman won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, the show won a Golden Globe for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and Laura Dern won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
Nicole Kidman’s performance is astounding in such a subtle manner. There are resources for help and it’s completely normal to feel afraid to leave. You can though. Sometimes you just need a bit of support. Walking away is the first and hardest step. It is also the bravest.
Gemma Magazine supports all women trying to walk away from a toxic situation. There is support.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline
Support, resources, and advice for your safety
Available: 24/7, 365 days a year. Bilingual advocates on hand.