My Honest Review of Little Fires Everywhere

*WARNING: This article will contain spoilers and events from the TV series and book Little Fires Everywhere!*

Reese Witherspoon, one of my favorite pop culture icons (right after my queen, Laura Dern), just released the finale for the Hulu TV adaptation of Celeste Ng’s hit novel Little Fires Everywhere. Now for some back story on the original book plot, Elena Richardson (played by Witherspoon) lives in a progressive and rule-oriented planned community that lives by strict guidelines. That is… until Mia Warren (played by the talented Kerry Washington) moves in after moving cross-country multiple times as an artist/nomad with her daughter, Pearl. Mia is different and challenges the rules and status quo often, provoking Elena and her family to do some questionable things. I don’t want to give too much away because I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone! It’s a great drama story and will leave you wanting more.

Onto Reese Witherspoon’s TV adaptation of this amazing book, I will start by saying it was sub-par. Now I’ve noticed this is an unpopular opinion, but I will say that watching this show after just finishing the book made my mom (who read the book and watched the show with) and I frustrated. We had high hopes for the show because of previously watching Reese’s other book to TV adaptation, Big Little Lies, and loving it. My mom and I are fans of Reese Witherspoon and her work, but this go-round just didn’t sit right with us.

Before I get into the juicy details, I’m going to preface with two things: a) this is purely an opinion piece, and b) there are major spoilers ahead!

Hand holding remote pointed at tv screen

The first thing my mom and I noticed in the show was that Kerry Washington plays Mia Warren, who, in the book was written as white, but Celeste Ng chose a black actress for the show. This isn’t a problem at all except for the fact that in the novel Mia Warren is one of the good characters who aren’t evil spirited or even rude. However, the TV adaptation villainizes Mia every chance they get. It left my mom and I to wonder why the second they chose to make the character black, they make her the nosy, two-sided, sneak that was completely different than the character I knew and loved from the book. Originally in the novel, Elena is the scheming antagonist who mistreats her youngest daughter and makes subtly insensitive remarks to Mia about being poor, but in the show, she’s portrayed as a white savior who provides shelter to Mia and is always apologetic.

There are moments that strayed far from the book that almost seemed to go out of their way to make Mia look bad. For instance, in the opening scene of episode two, there’s a flashback to when Mia lived in New York and she is seen having sex in a car while baby Pearl is the car seat next to her. This never happens in the book, in fact, Mia is a virgin who got pregnant via turkey basting and never went on to have any boyfriends or lovers. To viewers who didn’t read the book, Mia looks like a horrible mother here and it really rubbed my mom and me the wrong way. We had to ask ourselves if they cast Mia white, would they have gone as far as they did to make her look bad.

The other issue we had with the show goes along the same lines. There were a lot of times the show went off-book and didn’t stay true to the novel. In the first episode, Izzy (Elena’s youngest daughter) burns her hair off and then refuses to play her violin during her orchestra concert while wearing signage in permanent marker on her forehead reading “I’m not your puppet”. Neither of those things happened in the book at all. While adding new things (or taking things out) isn’t necessarily a problem, it shouldn’t be done often when adapting a book into a show or movie. It takes away from the original content and makes it less fun to watch when you already read the book. My mom and I found that we couldn’t even count on one hand how many times the show stayed true to the book for the first couple of episodes.

Overall, it’s probably a great show if you didn’t read the book first. However, having read it, it was an uncomfortable watch that I considered not even finishing. It still shocks me that the author of the book was a producer for the show and yet it was stretched so far from the book.

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