Big Little Lies

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Big Little Lies TV Poster Image
Rape, murder, class conflicts simmer in terrific drama.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Unappealing characters say iffy things, but it's clearly meant to point to their absurdity and snobbishness. One woman sniffs that another doesn't belong in their rich town; she's like a "dusty ol' Prius parked in front of Barneys." Another says "people over 40" shouldn't engage in PDA. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Madeline is a busybody and a bit of a gossip, but she's also a thoughtful and kindly friend and mother. Teens and tweens may not relate to a mom at first, but tender scenes between Madeline and her teen daughter may help them understand where their parents are coming from. Jane, closer to the age of young viewers, undergoes a change from meek and apologetic to bold and angry; parents may want to point out this change and ask what caused it. 

Violence

One character is physically abusive to his wife; the show's plot concerns a murder and rape. One character frequently flashes back to a rape in her past, focusing on the victim's sense memories after the rape. The rape itself is not shown on screen. A dead man's fatal wounds are described and briefly shown. 

Sex

Sexual acts are shown graphically with nudity. Vulgar expressions for sex: One woman says another gives her husband "organic mint-flavored blow jobs." 

Language

Strong language includes "f--king," "dammit," "hell," "ass," "s--t," and "dick," and a first-grade girl says "motherf---ker." 

Consumerism

There are mentions of high-tech companies such as Google, Yahoo, PayPal; the action takes place in an upscale community with lots of shots of fancy houses, expansive views, expensive furniture, designer clothing. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man jokes that a teen smokes pot with her friends; adults drink liquor and wine after dinner; at a party, alcohol contributes to a crime. A character goes outside to smoke cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Big Little Lies is a drama with mature themes, including domestic abuse and a sexual assault that sets the series' events into motion. One character flashes back repeatedly to a rape (not seen on-screen); another is physically abused by her husband, who pushes and strikes her. An offscreen murder is referred to, and the man's bloody, gory wounds are shown quickly as they're described by law enforcement. Couples are seen having sex, occasionally with graphic nudity, sometimes directly after violent abuse. Sex is referred to in vulgar expressions ("blow jobs"). Strong language includes "f--king," "dammit," "hell," "ass," "s--t," and "dick," and a first-grade girl says "motherf---ker." Adults drink liquor and wine at dinner and parties; the alcohol contributes to the eventual murder. A man makes a joke about a teen smoking pot. One character smokes cigarettes. Characters are generally kind and supportive to one another, as well as being thoughtful and caring parents. Ultimately the snobbish and gossipy don't come off well in this drama, and the kindhearted triumph in the end. 

User Reviews

Adult Written byMelissa L. March 4, 2017

Stylistic and beautiful...but one question...

My husband and I will probably keep watching because it is a good story and now after watching both episodes we are kind of "hooked"...but one questio... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 12 year old Written byKeegs M January 28, 2018

Brilliantly Done Show With A Foundation on Mature Themes

Big Little Lies was absolutely one of the best shows I have ever watched. There is no doubt that it will take home awards. However, if you want to watch this sh... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byjjgg April 17, 2017

Incredible but watch out

Just to begin with, this is honestly one of the best shows I've ever seen, so complex and every part of it though at times is very disturbing, adds to the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykingsebby1057 February 22, 2017

Addicting spectacular dramedy with a dash of darkness

I'm watching the episodes with my mother the show is very beautiful it really really captures the struggles of being a mother and the joys of it too the on... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty and written by David E. Kelley, BIG LITTLE LIES is set in the wealthy coast-side city of Monterey, California, where there's a new mommy at the upscale Otter Bay first-day-of-school orientation. Jane (Shailene Woodley) is different from the other moms. She's younger, she's poorer, she's not wearing designer clothes to drop-off. Despite friendly overtures from fellow Otter Bay moms Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), one of the school's movers-and-shakers, and the shy, withdrawn Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane immediately becomes a target of scorn when Jane's first-grade son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) is accused of bullying the daughter of take-charge career woman Renata (Laura Dern). Battle lines are quickly drawn, with parents and children alike choosing sides. But no one knew just how far the conflict would go until a school fundraiser spins out of control -- and someone ends up dead. 

Is it any good?

With lovely visuals standing in stark contrast to its characters' discontent, this beautifully crafted drama transcends its beach-read origins. When the opening scene of the school-fundraiser chaos splinters into witness interviews at which parents sneeringly reveal bits of gossip to investigators, it briefly seems that Big Little Lies will descend into pure soap opera, the compelling kind you keep watching but feel guilty about later. But soon a scene brings the series' themes into focus, as Madeline, Celeste, and Jane stop for a post-drop-off coffee and chat.

The other Otter Bay moms don't have it so easy either, no matter how shiny their designer packaging: Celeste is being abused at home and suspects her husband of even darker deeds, Renata worries that her high-powered job makes her an outcast amongst the stay-at-home moms, and Madeline is having problems with her teen daughter (Kathryn Newton), not the least of which is Abigail's burgeoning friendship with her insufferable stepmother (the wife of Madeline's ex), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz). Jane's problems are just more visible. As she navigates the piranha-filled waters of Otter Bay's social scene, she slowly discovers that no matter how ideal her new home seems, her past has followed her -- and won't let go. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Big Little Lies' Jane shows self-control and perseverance in moving to a new town, attempting to fit in, and looking for the man who raped her. Is hers a hero's journey? Why, or why not? 

  • Families also can talk about bullying. What instances of bullying exist in this series? What different forms can bullying take? What role does technology play in bullying now?

TV details

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