Celebrated director Jean-Marc Vallee is currently in talks to helm at least the opening episode of the upcoming limited series Big Little Lies for HBO. The filmmaker, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Film Editing for his 2013 film Dallas Buyer’s Club, will be following up such projects as The Young Victoria and Wild with this literary adaptation – the rights to which were snapped up by the respective production companies of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, with a view to creating a project in which they would star.
The 2014 novel, Big Little Lies, was written by Australian author Liane Moriarty, and became an instant hit on publication last year. It is a dark comedy, focused on three kindergarten mothers whose lives spiral out of control when the School Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public Primary School descends into a riot, leaving one parent dead. Mystery, intrigue and scandal combine when the surface of this seemingly idyllic community is scratched, and then scratched some more.
Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are already on board to star in the limited series – presumably as two of the three female leads. The casting choice for the third kindergarten mother has yet to be announced, although with a director on the brink of signing on to the project, this will likely follow soon after. The adaptation will be penned by multiple Emmy winning titan of television, David E. Kelley, who was behind such hit shows as Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal. He was also behind the ill-conceived 2011 Wonder Woman pilot, and the 2007 TV effort The Wedding Bells, however – setting a pattern that indicates Kelley’s work has tended to struggle when not centred around a legal setting.
The choice of David E. Kelley to adapt the woman-centric novel is also a curious one, given his track record in creating female characters. While his resume is littered with leading female roles, they are all somewhat problematic in that they are women seen through a stereotypically, clichéd male lens. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, on the other hand, has repeatedly sculpted impressive, multi-layered, complex women in each of the projects he has delivered, so it will hopefully be his influence – combined with that of stars Kidman and Witherspoon – that shines through in the adaptation of Big Little Lies.