‘Little Fires Everywhere’ reviews: What do critics think of Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in Hulu limited series?

Adapted from the novel by Celeste Ng, the limited series “Little Fires Everywhere” premieres on Hulu on March 18 and stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington as moms confronting issues of race and class. So what do critics think of this take on the bestselling source material?

As of this writing the series has a MetaCritic score of 70 based on 15 reviews counted thus far: nine of them are positive and six are somewhat mixed, but none are outright negative. On Rotten Tomatoes, which categorizes reviews merely as positive or negative and not on a sliding scale from 0 to 100 like MetaCritic uses, the series is rated 70% fresh based on 20 reviews, six of which are classified as negative. The RT critics’ consensus says, “Though ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ at times plays it too safe, sparks fly when it lets well-matched leads Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon dig into the difficult questions it does dare to ask.”

Indeed, critics are saying Washington and Witherspoon are “on fire” in the leading roles and “exceed towering expectations” set by the well-known novel. The series as a whole is “nuanced” in dealing with its “complex characters.” Its strength is in “the rich context that surrounds” the “occasionally melodramatic conflicts.” And it moves at a “brisk but not hectic pace” that makes it easily watchable. Though it has also been said that the series “paints with a broad brush” and includes “the occasional hokey flourish.” It keeps a “distracting focus” on its two leads when the novel was more of an ensemble piece.

Will the series be an Emmy contender? Goodness knows both Washington and Witherspoon have a strong track record for it. Washington earned two Best Drama Actress nominations (2013-2014) for her starring role in the political soap “Scandal” and then picked up dual nominations in 2016 for producing the telefilm “Confirmation” and playing the leading role of Anita Hill. Witherspoon won Best Limited Series in 2017 as a producer of “Big Little Lies,” for which she was also nominated for her leading role. This season she’s a triple threat, starring in season two of “Big Little Lies,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and Apple TV+’s flagship drama “The Morning Show.”

Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow TV fans.

Kelly Lawler (USA Today): “Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are on fire … ‘Fires’ (adapted from Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller) and its two producer/stars not only meet but easily exceed towering expectations. ‘Fires’ is the successful meeting of style and substance, combining great acting, superb costuming and production design with sharp scripts that expand on the acclaimed source material.”

Amy Amatangelo (Paste): “The strength of this nuanced series lies in the fact that these complex characters are not wholly good or wholly bad … Washington is fantastic as Mia. Her hard, angry exterior barely conceals her vulnerability … Witherspoon, who is building a little TV empire with ‘Big Little Lies,’ ‘The Morning Show’ and ‘Little Fires Everywhere,’ has perfected the entitled character who is blind to her own entitlement.”

Steven Scaife (Slant): “The show’s strength lies in the rich context that surrounds these occasionally melodramatic conflicts, rendering Mia in particular with vivid detail … The series, however, too often paints with a broad brush, particularly where the Richardsons are concerned … ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ never quite resists the occasional hokey flourish either, from sappy dream sequences visualizing Mia’s fears to the various on-the-nose cover songs that conclude each episode.”

Judy Berman (Time): “The show follows the broad outline of the novel, at a brisk but not hectic pace that makes it easy to keep watching. Yet it feels unshakably different … The miniseries maintains a distracting focus on the characters played by its producer-stars in a way that undercuts the sense you get, reading Ng’s book, which divides its attention more equally among a dozen characters, that sleepy, self-satisfied Shaker Heights is the story’s true protagonist.”

Be sure to make your Emmy nominations predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the nominees are announced on July 28. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Emmy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest predictions

More News from GoldDerby