Ralph Potts reviews this limited series that returns for more drama, secrets, and seduction as it explores society’s myth of perfection, and the contradictions that exist beneath our idealized facade of marriage, sex, parenting and friendship.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner – 2019
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Feature running time: 338 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, Meryl Streep
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by: David Kelly, Liane Moriarty
Region Code: A
Release Date: January 7, 2020
“Based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling book, and featuring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, this darkly comedic series tells the tale of three mothers whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to the point of murder.” – Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Big Little Lies is based in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, where nothing is quite as it seems. Doting moms, successful husbands, adorable children, beautiful homes: What lies will be told to keep their perfect worlds from unraveling? Told through the eyes of three mothers –Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) –Big Little Lies paints a picture of a town fueled by rumors and divided into the haves and have-nots, exposing the conflicts, secrets and betrayals that compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors.
Based on co-writer Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name Big Little Lies’s first season was a seven-episode series that explored themes of familial dysfunction, spousal abuse, bullying, infidelity, and rape. Focusing on three central characters the narrative painted in fine strokes that expertly developed the interpersonal relationships of the three, while branching off into a series of well-crafted subplots that cohesively support the primary story. Beginning with the end, the layer peeling plot plays out over each one-hour episode, drawing closer to revealing not just the lingering questions of who is dead, but many of the rather more interesting questions raised along with it.
In Season Two, on the surface, everything seems the same in the seaside town of Monterey, CA: mothers continue to dote, husbands support, children are adorable, house are beautiful. But the night of the school fundraiser changed all that, leaving the community reeling as the “Monterey Five” bond together to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Meanwhile, Perry’s grieving mother Mary Louise Wright comes to town in search of answers after her son’s death.
As much as I liked Season One, I felt that season two seemed unnecessary. I felt that the story wrapped up nicely, bringing things to a gratifying conclusion. Season two definitely came across as a add on aimed at an attempt to capitalize on the success of season one. The narrative focused on the now fractured personal lives of the Monterey Five as they struggled to contend with what happened at the fund raiser. It also resurrected the police investigation at the insistence of Perry’s mother whose growing suspicions about the incident opened a pandora’s box that led to multiple narrative threads involving several of the Monterey Five.
This, along with an overemphasis on the nearly complete breakdown of the personal relationships between husbands and wives, a mother and daughter and an almost constant sense of heightened dramatic tension, season two didn’t flow nearly as well as the first. Mary Louise was too sympathetic of a character to serve in the role of the villain, despite attempts to draw her actions as such and, the whole idea that what occurred at the fundraiser was somehow premeditated, given the circumstances, was ludicrous and negatively impacted the credibility of the season’s primary plot.
Big Little Lies: The Complete Second Season is proof that sometimes less is better and leaving well enough alone can be prudent.
Here is Season Two’s episode listing:
- What Have They Done?
- Tell-Tale Hearts
- The End of the World
- She Knows
- Kill Me
- The Bad Mother
- I Want to Know
The rating is for violence, language, sexual content and strong thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialog Reproduction:
- DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
Big Little Lies: The Complete Second Season comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.
This 1.78:1 framed video presentation offers appreciable high definition resolution that has a satisfying glossy aesthetic. Images are stable and sharp with plenty of discernible texture and revealing fine detail during close-ups. Blacks are deep while exhibiting appreciable dynamic range with stable yet slightly elevated contrast that never infringes upon fidelity. Colors are snappy and bright and sullen and muted where appropriate. Fleshtones appear descriptive with variable depth that brings out the finest gradations in the differing complexional types among the cast.
The DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialog, robust dynamics and a subtle, yet enriching surround sound mix. I was pleased with its use of spatial dimension and directional cues to create an apropos and occasionally immersive sound field. This worked hand in hand with show’s music, and active sequences to build tension and drive its thematic elements. I thought it sounded quite good.
- The Lies Revealed: A Conversation with the cast of Big Little Lies
Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel Big Little Lies: The Complete Second Season attempts to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time. While there are sporadic moments that prove compelling the overall gist is an uneven and primarily ineffectual drama that doesn’t hold water when compared to season one. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video mated with a bland supplemental package. Big Little Lies: The Complete Second Season isn’t terrible, especially if you really enjoyed the first season, just keep expectations well in check.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems