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A novice’s attempt to read a film (technically a show) featuring Big Little Lies

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited by: Sahana Inuganti

I want to make movies. I’ve never been on a film set, or met someone who makes movies. I just have this instinct that I will love it, and whenever I think of myself in the future— it’s the only possibility I can imagine. From a director and writer’s point of view, I find it fascinating that a thought in our head builds on to become a story. Sometime later, hundreds of passionate people are working to transform this story from paper to film. It marvels me, and I can’t wait to delve into this world, even though I honestly know nothing about it. 

I read somewhere- everything on a film set is deliberate and serves a purpose. This statement hasn’t left my head and has left me with quite a few questions. If everything on a film set is planned, then how do you ensure realism and authenticity? How does this filter into the different departments of costume, production design and cinematography? I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, but I hope watching more content carefully provides some answers and even more questions. 

Big Little Lies was one of the first shows I ever saw. It revolves around the lives of five women in the small town of Monterey. The first season focuses on their lives leading up to the night of a murder. The second season focuses on the friendship these women share based on a lie and how it affects each one of them. When I finished watching the show, I wasn’t deeply moved or left with a sense of discomfort. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling, and why was I feeling this way. I’ve come to realise that’s the best a story can do to you- slowly make its way into your heart and make you more empathetic. 

I recently watched the show again, and this time tried to notice the details of the screenplay. Here’s a list of observations I made and some information I found on the web that attempts to breakdown the costume and production design: 

The characters and their costumes

  • Madeline Mackenzie portrayed by Reese Witherspoon was always impeccably impressed in bold colours and heels. This is a contrast to her personal life which is falling apart. She wants to pretend that she has it all together— when in reality she is facing a crumbling marriage and a teenage daughter acting out.  
  • Jane Chapman portrayed by Shailene Woodley wears dark and baggy clothes in the first season. She wears fitted and brighter clothes in the second season as a result of increased confidence and progress in her healing. 
  • Renata Klein portrayed by Laura Dern is always seen wearing clothes that radiate and assert her power. She is dressed in well-defined and fitted expensive clothes. 
  • Bonnie Carlson portrayed by Zoë Kravitz has a bohemian and free-spirited vibe in the first season— her costume conveys this with flowy silhouettes and earthy tones. In the second season, she is the one suffering the most and her clothing which is comfortable and belonging to a darker tone conveys her internal turmoil. 
  • Celeste Wright and Mary Louise portrayed by Nicole Kidman and the GOAT Meryl Streep are just so incredible that I couldn’t get myself to focus on their costume design. The only detail I could point out was that Celeste wore some of Perry’s shirts in the second season- the most classic way of portraying grief. 
  • Fun Fact: The costumes for the trivia night was the most challenging theme. If the theme wasn’t stylish enough, the costume department had to keep those costumes in perfect shape as the cast was shooting over a period of two weeks. 

The Monterey five and their relationship with their homes

  • The women’s houses and their location with respect to the sea are in many ways a representation of their socio-economic position in society. 
  • Renata’s house is above the sea, she has power and the highest social standing.
  • Celeste’s house is right next to the sea which depicts that there is always trouble and danger lurking around. 
  • In the first season, Jane’s house is secluded as she wants to be away. 
  • Bonnie’s house is earthy, woody and has artifacts from around the world. It represents her bohemian vibe, free spirit and sits well with Nathan’s profession as a landscape architect. 
  • Fun fact: Nicole’s house was originally white. The crew decided to paint the walls a dull blue for the show. When the owners saw the new avatar of the house, they really liked it and decided to keep the walls blue.  

I think this makes sense. I hope it does. Fingers crossed. 

I am a self appointed food critic, enthusiastic event planner and certified packer. I love dogs, mismatched clothes and the colour yellow.
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