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Review: Beauty & The Beast (2017)

"I found much of this version charming, diverting and moving. But it's not a patch on the 1991 masterpiece" -Ian O

"I begrudge the decision of executives when it comes to casting a movie like this. They didn't need a 'star' to fill the seats. They needed someone who could elevate the material..." -Jones

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Saturday
Mar112017

Big Little Lies MVPs: Episode 3 "Living The Dream"

Editor's Note: To get us all caught up for Sunday's 4th episode (we'll start covering the series as it airs now), and so that I can get to "Feud" and the latest episode of "Pfandom," I'm handing over the reigns to episode 3 to our new contributor Spencer Coile for a fresh set of eyes.

Top Ten MVPs of Big Little Lies. Episode 3 "Living The Dream" 
In the third episode, Madeline finds out that her oldest daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) wants to move in with her dad (James Tupper) and Bonnie. Celeste and Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) attempt to give a another go at counseling. And after a botched family tree project leads Ziggy (Iain Armitage) to ask who his father is, Jane reveals to Madeline that Ziggy was the resut of forced sex with a man supposedly named Saxton Banks. 

"Living The Dream" is Big Little Lies' finest installment thus far, and a list of the episode's major players follows after the jump...

10 Chloe: Playlist Extraordinaire 
Using a playlist (on a flash-drive, no less!) to woo Abigail into letting her have her old bedroom? She truly is Madeline's daughter, that little schemer. 

09 Avenue Q
For a brief second, we witness as the cast of this community theater production sing through one of the musical's most memorable numbers, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." And across the country, musical theater fans rejoiced. Whether or not Madeline can save it is yet to be determined, but I surely hope we see more in the coming weeks! 

08 "I saw erections."
There is still so much that we don't know about Bonnie. Her dancing makes for just another layer to this enigmatic woman. Would it be too easy to chalk her up as merely a free spirit, caught up in the moment when Renata invites her out onto the dance floor? The way she lithes, gyrates, and shimmies, all eyes are on her-- it is truly hard to look away, mothers and fathers alike. 

But... you don't have cancer. 

07 Ed Mackenzie, the Madeline Whisperer
Nathaniel has already written extensively about Ed and Adam Scott's performance of Ed, so I will just add that Ed truly is the perfect foil to Madeline's eccentricities. He is calming and oh-so loving. 

Because I'm still in love with you... on this harvest moon

06 "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young
The episode ends with the each woman utterly disillusioned. Celeste softly cries into her husband's shoulder. Madeline sits in her daughter's now empty bedroom. Jane has finally revealed her long-time secret. No on is living the dream here, yet as Neil Young croons in the background, we see that it certainly isn't from a lack of trying. 

What did you say?

05 Iain Armitage as Ziggy Chapman
I'm a tad cautious when it comes to child actors. Fortunately, Armitage is nothing short of revelatory as Ziggy. He clearly has shades of darkness that come through in this latest episode-- particularly when he loses his cool when Jane will not allow him to put his unnamed father on his family tree. There is such a maturity to Ziggy that is both admirable, yet intriguing. Is he hiding something? Am I perhaps reading too much into his performance? Who knows, tune in next time!

04 The Counseling Session
Amidst the twists and turns that come from multiple different storylines, Vallée manages to find time for six minutes of pure acting bliss. As Celeste and Perry sit down for their couple's counseling session, they begin by immediately lying to their counselor. No, of course Perry doesn't hit her. The incredulity they imbue right off the bat demonstrates repeated history from the two; they have clearly done this before. But as the stakes are raised, tears begin to fall, and both Celeste and Perry admit to their wrongdoings. Perry is abusive, but he has his reasons. But, more devastatingly, Celeste has her reasons for allowing it to continue. But perhaps they both already knew that.

03 The Many Faces of Reese Witherspoon 
Those comparing Witherspoon's performance to her portrayal of Tracy Flick in Election or to any of her past performances are doing her work on Big Little Lies a massive injustice. Madeline Martha Mackenize is a creation that is completely unique from anything Witherspoon has done in the past, and a role she was born to play. One scene that remains etched in the mind is the PTA meeting, where the camera is held on Witherspoon's face (pictured above). In just fifteen seconds, she says so much without saying a single word. All of her doubts, her disappointment in losing Abigail are brought to the forefront, and all we can do is watch her struggle to remain cool, calm, and confident. Madeline may not be perfect, but Witherspoon certainly is. 

02 Party Bus
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, holding glasses of champagne, singing along to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" (which is brilliantly utilized, considering the title of the episode). Need I say more?

You're dead in this town.

01 Renata's Leopard Jumper
Laura Dern has been bringing her a-game to the role of Renata Klein, queen bitch of Monterey, California. And "Living The Dream" brings to life many of her insecurities, yet many of her strengths at the same time. Clearly, Renata is not a bad person. As witnessed through her phone call with Madeline to her pleas to feel wanted by her husband, she is willing to lay her heart on the line for those she loves-- notably, Amabella. And this all culminates to her daughter's birthday party, where she is dressed spectacularly in one of the series' most iconic looks. As she parades around ensuring everything is perfect, we bear witness to some of Dern's finest work: that of fashion guru, cool mom, and kick-ass dancer all wrapped into one. 

The war is raging and all is glorious. 

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Reader Comments (20)

That therapy scene floored me. Watching Kidman react, barely saying a word, but communicating so much about her character was riveting. I don't want to hyperbolize but...Birth closeup worthy.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I watched this last night and agree with you. It was the best so far. The Jane assault memory was (sadly) spot on. Nicole and Alex were very effective in the therapy scene. My only gripe about that portrayal by Nicole is that Celeste is way too composed for a domestic violence victim. The Zoe dance was perfection. My favorite scene was Reese at the PTA meeting when she see her nemesis, Laura Dern. The expressions on Reese's face - this was Streepian in its authenticity. Brava ladies!

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

In regards to Reese, the last time I was this knocked out by a performance was Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

The "Nicole's portrayal of a domestic violence victim is too composed" argument is akin to the criticisms thrown at Isabelle Huppert's portrayal of a rape victim (read those blind Oscar voter ballots). They're very tone deaf reactions to have to these characters and performances since what they're experiencing isn't so black and white.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

This show is THE gay wet dream of our times lol. I'm convinced. I know the default answer should be Feud, and it's a ton of fun, but I haven't been this excited about Actressing (both big and subtle) this much in a while. Reese, Nicole and Laura are kiiiiillling it and Shailene is shockingly holding her own. Very few actresses can mix drama and comedy better than Reese (when she's given a proper chance) and very few have as expressive eyes as Nicole (she stole that therapy scene flat out without hardly saying a word) and I'm so glad that they're getting to do some of the things they're the best at with this show.

Also, the music selection is amazing. But that's one thing you can never fault Valeé for.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

I agree with everyone's sentiments. Celeste is hard for me because she is such a victim. She has girlfriends but does not tell them the truth. She comes on to her husband even after he roughs her up. She is a patsy for a diamond necklace. She even lets him take over their first therapy session, where he makes everything about HIM and HIS problems. Maybe its true to life, but the character pushes my please break free sister button.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

But, but, but - I wanted Nathaniel's thoughts on episode 3! :D

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermorganb

This show is giving me life...and death. Brava.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Oh, Nathaniel... I came here to see your opinion. If I wanted a fresh take, I'd go somewhere else.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Why oh Why is Nicole so great? Few actresses can do it the same way. Her eyes express such deep emotion. I love how the show allows her to be sexy, vulnerable and regal at the same time.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel B.

I gotta say, I am *shocked* by some of these comments about Celeste. "too composed for a domestic violence victim" "she is such a victim" Yikes, guys. Yikes.

This episode was great. Showing the two sides to so many different stories (yes, including domestic violence). I appreciated Dern getting some sympathetic work to do. This is surely her Emmy submission (unless there's something even great coming up that mixes her bitchiness, her sadness, her sexiness and her funniness all together). Nicole in that councilling scene? So great. Reese? Best of her career. Even Shailene is keeping up with those around her.

I too loved "I saw erections".

Now... Nathaniel?

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

People -- don't be rude! I haven't watched episode 3 yet. still catching up.

March 12, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

One of my issues with this show is that it seems to forget about Shailene's character for long stretches of time. I hope this is rectified now that her secret has been revealed and I assume she is at the centerpiece of the show's mystery. On the other hand, all of the performances are tremendous, so I can forgive a lot of the mediocre writing.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Laura and Glenn - THANK YOU. I read Faye and Marie's remarks about Celeste and rolled my eyes. Did anyone make inane comments like this during discussions of Elle?? Just because these characters don't have the "expected" reaction to the horrible things happening in their lives does not mean their reactions are "incorrect" or inauthentic. I can't with these comments. Nicole is so great here.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMaison

Why are people glossing over or glamorizing violence? Interesting.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

What about her actual scene where he grabs her by the neck... Nicole is excellent in it.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterT

Faye - glamorizing violence?? I'm sorry, where do you get that this series (or that our response to it) is "glamorizing" violence?? And GLOSSING over it? I can't.

I've known people that remind me so much of Celeste. Not all domestic violence victims shout it from the roof top and get out of harms way the second things go wrong. It would be so great if that were the case but so often it's much more about internalization and normalizing the behavior to the point of delusion. If anything, your response of "she should be acting THIS way" is glossing over what many people in these situations go through. It isn't that easy or simple and you're treating it as such.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I totally support you. It's (still) a free country and all views are important.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

You accused people of glamorizing or glossing over violence. It wasn't the case. At least not here.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Can Dern reasonably submit for Supporting Actress in a Miniseries? She is so good and checking her IMDB she, like The Bening, is depressingly under-awarded. A few Golden Globes and that's it.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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