Big Little Lies

HBO

Reese Witherspoon. Nicole Kidman. Shailene Woodley. Laura Dern. Adam Scott. Zoë Kravitz. Alexander Skarsgard. No, it's not a tip-sheet for an A-list party you're not invited to, that's the cast list for HBO's terrific Big Little Lies. There's nothing little about this miniseries.

From creator and writer David E. Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallée, based on the book by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies dives right into the lives of several moms from the ritzy Monterery, California. It's a dark dramedy about moms, their kids, houses with killer homes (the only thing that threatens to outshine the performances are homes, it's like real estate porn) and their lies. Oh, the lies. Things aren't so perfect under the surface, of course.

Witherspoon is Madeline Martha MacKenzie—but nobody uses Martha—a stay-at-home mom on a quest to mount a production of Avenue Q, married to Eddie (Scott). She takes Woodley's Jane, a newcomer to the neighborhood, under her wing. Kidman is Celeste, a former lawyer who seems to have it all, including "the perfect" husband (Skarsgård) and best friend to Madeline. Kravitz plays Bonnie, the wife to Madeline's ex-husband Nathan (James Tupper) and then there's Renata (Dern), a high-powered career mom at the center of all the drama—even with the kids.

It doesn't take long for the tension under the surface to begin to bubble. Their lives are far from perfect—and there's murder involved. The story is crafted around the lives of Madeline, Celeste and Jane—with flashes to the future cut in, with friends and acquaintances detailing the underbelly behavior.

With a cast that has this many awards and nominations, you'd be right to expect the performances that these men and women deliver. Witherspoon is peak Witherspoon—in the best way possible. Feisty and funny, she owns every scene she's in.

Big Little Lies

HBO

Kidman is vulnerable and mysterious. Are we in a Kidman renaissance? Between this, Lion, Top of the Lake—it's happening and that's more than OK.

However, the real standout, which should've been known when the casting was announced, is Dern. The five-time Emmy nominee and two-time Oscar nominee is transcendent as Renanta. Dern is able to blend the perfect amount of comedy and drama, easily deserving the "and Laura Dern" credit. Maybe now she'll finally move from nominee to winner.

Each one of these women portrays fascinating characters, capable to carry a show on their own—Give me a show of Dern's Renanta crushing it in the business world by day, staring off into the sea with a glass of wine at night!—but together, they form one of the strongest ensembles assembled for TV in years.

Big Little Lies is a welcome escape from real world problems, with an interesting blend of comedy, drama and mystery. Knowing this is a limited series and there's finality to it also increases the ability to enjoy the performances and the house porn that makes up Big Little Lies.

Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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