Big Little Lies

I’m watching the last episode of “Big Little Lies” for the third time. It’s worth watching more than once because of the lush visuals — the gorgeous scenery of the California coast, the incredibly beautiful women, the sweet faces of the children — and the best acting I have ever seen on television.

Reese Witherspoon (Madeline), Nicole Kidman (Celeste), and Laura Dern (Renata) are already legends, but this may well be their finest work. Kidman’s performance is sure to be an inspiration for women who find themselves trapped in abusive relationships.

Shailene Woodley (Jane) of the Divergent movies turns in a truly magnificent performance, and Zoe Kravitz (Bonnie), who was also in Divergent, does a great job, too, and shows her musical chops with a rendition of the Elvis hit “Don’t” at the talent show in the finale.

It’s included on the soundtrack, which is already a hit on I-Tunes, largely because of the haunting opening theme “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka.

The children all do a great job, especially Iain Armitage (Jane’s son Ziggy), Darby Camp (Madelaine’s daughter Chloe), and Ivy George (Renata’s daughter Amabella).

The men are all macho jerks except Madeline’s second husband Ed (Adam Scott), who acts as a kind of voice of reason amid all the insanity, and Tom the cafe owner (Joseph Cross), who ends up with Jane, once she finds out he’s not gay.

Celeste’s husband Perry (Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd) is particularly creepy, but Madeline’s first husband Nathan (James Tupper), now married to Bonnie, and Renata’s husband Gordon (Jeffrey Nording) are both alpha male douchebags.

Ed is more of a beta male, and he wows everyone with his rendition of “The Wonder of You” in the finale. It’s on the soundtrack, too, of course. I’m not a fan of the Elvis version, but I really liked what Scott did with it. It’s amazing what you can do if you give it a little nuance instead of just bellowing like Elvis, the prototypical alpha.

“Big Little Lies” takes a lot of perfect-looking families and zooms in to show us the conflict and torment behind the facades. That’s kind of typical; it’s just like Peyton Place. But this series does this in a way that makes us care about the characters and their stories, and the pacing keeps us on the edge of our seats to see what happens next.

Obviously much of the credit goes to Liane Moriarty, who wrote the book the series is based on, David Kelley, who wrote the series, and Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed.