Who gave the best performance this week in the third episode of HBO’s “Big Little Lies”? “Living the Dream,” like all seven episodes in the limited series, was written by multi-Emmy winner David E. Kelley and directed by Oscar nominee Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Wild”). But who was the MVP in front of the camera? Vote below in our poll.
During last week’s episode “Serious Mothering,” tensions rose further as Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) lashed out at her ex-husband’s new wife Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) for taking her daughter to Planned Parenthood without telling her. She also continued to work on getting “Avenue Q” produced at the local community theater and declared war against Renata (Laura Dern) after Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) son was the only one in their children’s class not invited to her daughter’s birthday party. Viewers also learned how tumultuous Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) marriage to her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) actually is. And Ed (Adam Scott) had it out with both Madeline and her ex-husband.
Tensions further escalate in “Living the Dream.” Madeline plans a “Disney on Ice” outing to undermine Renata’s birthday party for her daughter, but later Madeline’s heart breaks as her oldest daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) decides to live with her father (James Tupper) and stepmother (Zoe Kravitz). Perry once again gets violent with Celeste, which leads them to couples counseling and ends with him giving her a diamond necklace as an apology, followed by another awkward sexual encounter. Meanwhile, Jane struggles with being a single mom and finally reveals some of her torturous past.
Renata’s hard shell started to crack this week, showing the desperation any parent would feel if they feared their child’s birthday could potentially be ruined. No place was this more evident than a phone call to Madeline in which she is willing to do anything it takes to make her daughter’s day a success. Frustrated, she throws the phone in the pool before turning to her husband and trying to regain her composure. Later, while dancing at her daughter’s party, it’s obvious the desperation she feels to make this the best day ever. Should this role earn Dern her sixth Emmy nomination this is definitely an episode she should keep in mind for a possible submission. Perhaps it could finally bring her her first ever win.
Dern might have been an easy choice for the best performance in the episode had it not been for Woodley’s quiet and heartbreaking monologue in the second half. Woodley first came to prominence in her Golden Globe nominated performance in “The Descendants” (2011) and followed that up with the “Divergent” series (2014-2016), which was adapted from the popular young-adult novels. This week we saw just how fragile Jane’s world is, leading her from a brief moment of triumph as her son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) hit a home run to a moment of dread as she scrambles to help him finish his family tree project for school and he demands to know his father’s name. It ends with Jane confessing to Madeline that her son was conceived when she was raped. Woodley did not overplay the scene where she confessed or the flashback scene that showed the assault. Instead she showed control and allowed the audience to be drawn into the story, leaving viewers wanting more.
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