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Big Little Lies: How A Star-Studded Cast and Moody Monterey Soundtrack Tackled Issue Of Domestic Violence & Its Aftermath

HBO has released the second season of Big Little Lies, more exciting soundtrack to match dark drama.

Big Little Lies Season 2 returns to HBO

Big Little Lies Season 2 returns to HBO

– Big Little Lies season 2 premiere episode featured songs including Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’ and Diana Ross’ ‘It’s My House’

– Michael Kiwanuka’s Cold Little Heart hit 60 million views on YouTube

The Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning HBO series, Big Little Lies, returned to TV screens with season 2 this June, showcasing new cast Meryl Streep on top a Hollywood royalty line-up featuring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.

Big Little Lies is a poignant and beautiful show about the ugly cloak-and-dagger lives of troubled women in Monterey, California, linked through a murder. Kidman plays Celeste. A lawyer who’d given up a high-flying career to take on full time motherhood to twin sons and wife to an abusive husband. She hides her bruises from friends and struggles to admit that she might well be in real danger.

Created and written by David E Kelley (Ally McBeal), the series’ acting and writing remains first-rate, and so does its soundtrack. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs (season 1) and director Jean-Marc Vallée expanded and diversified layers of expression to the overcast scenes with a heavy dose of soul — from Elvis Presley, Joan Jett, Diana Ross and Michael Kiwanuka’s ‘Cold Little Heart’, the theme song that backs the iconic drive by the bay in every episode’s prologue.

Music Press Asia: Big Little Lies won 4 Golden Globe Awards in 2017. George Pimentel/WireImage

Music Press Asia: Big Little Lies won 4 Golden Globe Awards in 2017. George Pimentel/WireImage

Joan Jett’s 1981 classic ‘Bad Reputation’ was used in the premiere episode of season 2 in a scene where Jane (Shailene Woodley) was seen dancing with her son Ziggy. She seems undeterred by what has happened in the past (involving rape and conceiving Ziggy), and despite the bad reputation as a single mother, is moving forward.

These women, prior to this series, have held outstanding award-winning roles portraying and leading strong figureheads in successful motion pictures and theatrical productions worldwide. Breaking away from traditional ‘film’ sets, the actors’ stellar acting held intense moments that captivated fans — enough momentum to run a second season.

Reviews of their roles have, so far, been extremely apt and nothing less than remarkable. By casting them on the series, intrinsically, established a significant and immediate lifeline to the success of the show — both financially and of repute. Both Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have, over the course of their professional career, amassed diverse repertoire of work, mostly films.

[Music Press Asia] Meryl Streep plays mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

[Music Press Asia] Meryl Streep plays mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

Also in season 2, Diana Ross ‘It’s My House’ is the song Renata (Laura Dern) lip-synced to while she was shooting the “Women in Power” story. The song, written by husband and wife duo Ashford & Simpson, was recorded by Diana Ross in 1979. A truly Renata song.

The theme tune for Big Little Lies comes from British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, a track that came from Kiwanuka’s 2016 Love & Hate album which also includes the title track and ‘Black Man in a White World’.

Michael Kiwanuka’s album ‘Love & Hate is now available on Amazon.

Music Press Asia: Michael Kiwanuka's track 'Cold Little Heart' from the album Love & Hate is the theme song in Big Little Lies.

Music Press Asia: Michael Kiwanuka’s track ‘Cold Little Heart’ from the album Love & Hate is the theme song in Big Little Lies.

“‘Cold Little Heart’ was the first song I wrote for this album,” Kiwanuka told NME, “and it helped direct where the music was going. It’s really influenced by classic ‘60s and ’70s British guitar bands like The Who and Pink Floyd, as well as by a lot of soul music, particularly songs like ‘Walk On By’ by Isaac Hayes.”

Under the new director Andrea Arnold, season 2 continues to leave audience in a trance-like state every time a song plays prompting curiosity and creating the “I wish to Shazam that song right now” moment.

In the second season, Big Little Lies examine how the effects of abuse linger even after the perpetrator is long gone. Mourning over Perry’s death even though she knows that she deserved a life free from his brutality and fury.

And while Celeste remembers the happier moments with Perry, at the same time, struggles to admit that she no longer want to tolerate the abuse. The scene plays the haunting cover of Neil Young’s 1992 track ‘Harvest Moon’ — the version recorded by Cassandra Wilson in 1995 from her album ‘New Moon Daughter’.

Another character that resembles a more humane and logical perspective is her therapist. Her wise words remain a life support that helped her understand her longing for him as a kind of PTSD — a strikingly similar ordeal soldiers suffer from when it comes to adapting to a less exciting civilian life.

While her delirious dreams of Perry continue to keep her awake in the night, she decided that Ambien may be the quick-fix — a decision that she soon regretted; she drove herself off the rail when she feel asleep behind the wheels. ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ by Canadian folk singer, Neil Young, certainly sets the woozy tone. According to Young, the song was written when he was bedridden with a fever while he was in California’s Topanga Canyon.

‘Somewhere Not Here’ comes from Alpha’s album ‘Come From Heaven’. This song literally underlines the scene where she was preparing dinner for her sons. It was a flashback of a date with Perry earlier in their relationship. It foreshadows the violence that came after through the given lyrics: I remember when you came, I can just recall that day / Unexpected, undetected, if I’d have known I still would have done it…”

Although the portrayal of women trauma has become more nuanced in more recent shows, the response of audience can often be depressingly neglected or tone deaf when it comes to violence against women as a legitimate concern. Rather than openly discuss the subject of domestic violence, audience may see that lack of compliance resulting in physical abuse is naturally due to an unlikable personality. According to YouTube discussions on the matter, some are even misinterpreting Perry’s character as rather sexy.

Domestic violence remains a widening problem in our culture precisely. In many ways, we still fail to place the blame where it is due and continue to ask the superficial question of why the woman is still in the relationship, rather than probing why the violence can’t seem to stop manifesting from man. Assuming that victims must have played a part in provoking the rage — we judge women who begin to propitiate the scenario and the abuser out of fear.

The show deftly points out a contrast to a culture that regularly undermines victims and their candor dealing with such abuse. Not only it offers a dramatisation, in all forms of fictitious creativity, of how abuse can be tucked and hidden away, it is also providing a bold solution to a shameful truth that gradually sees clear sky ahead.

Episode 2 (season 2) closes with Sufjan Stevens’ track ‘Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)’ from the 2003 album “Michigan” — a 15-track tribute to the musician’s home state. The evocative piano instrumental plays as the dialogue-free scene depicts a sweet moment when Celeste and her twins arrive at Jane’s apartment. It highlights a strong storyline that advocates the evolving friendship between the women’s complicated and intertwined lives.

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