Reece Witherspoon can seemingly do no wrong.
Hot on the heels of Big Little Lies and Morning Wars she co-stars and co-produces Little Fires Everywhere, an 8 part drama based on a best-selling book of the same name by Celeste Ng.
Co-starring (and co-producing) alongside her is Kerry Washington (Scandal, Fantastic Four, The Last King of Scotland).
Both play mothers in Shaker Heights, Ohio circa 1997. When their lives intersect they couldn’t be any more different, but they will soon be set on a course for collision that makes for top melodrama….
Witherspoon plays the picture-perfect mother Elena, a journalist prone to boasting about the time she interviewed Janet Reno. She is married to lawyer Bill (Joshua Jackson) and they share an expansive Home Beautiful-spread house with their 4 teenage kids: two of whom are prominent in the storyline, black sheep Izzy (Megan Stott) and the blossoming charmer Moody (Gavin Lewis).
Against her better judgement, Elena leases their second home to mixed-media artist and single mother Mia (Washington) who is particularly protective of her teenage daughter Pearl (Lexi Underwood). Elena is convinced she is doing a good deed by leasing to the under-privileged even though it reeks of over-compensating racism…
She goes one step further in offering Mia a job as her domestic help, “house manager,” which Mia accepts if only to keep an eye on the budding relationship Pearl is having with Moody. What follows is furtive behaviour, snobbery, secrets and gossip.
Rippling underneath it all is a great canyon of identity, particularly surrounding Izzy, but which will also rise to the surface for Pearl. Celeste Ng has lit a fuse for her key characters and they are about to spontaneously combust, so to speak. This makes for delicious viewing, particularly those missing Desperate Housewives or Big Little Lies.
That said, the similarities around Witherspoon’s prissy, perfect mom and the manipulative cyclone that is Big Little Lies‘ Madeline is hard to overlook. She does it so well -but should she be doing it all the time? Little Fires Everywhere also isn’t really up to the benchmark of Liane Moriarty’s writing, nor the eye of director Jean-Marc Vallée.
But Kerry Washington is a stand-out as Mia, hiding secrets from her past, and who offers so much emotion from her expressive face. You often get the feeling she is about to let rip at the privileged affluent world around her, spearheaded by the tone-deaf Elena.
Special mention must go to Lexi Underwood as Pearl and Megan Stott as the depressed Izzy. Hopefully an under-utilised Joshua Jackson is given more to do than the 3 episodes I viewed. Look out too for Rosemary DeWitt as Elena’s best friend Linda.
Little Fires Everywhere is best when its darkest suburban truths are reflected back, which it achieves better than a lot of other recent melodramas. Worth a look.
Little Fires Everywhere begins today on Amazon Prime Video.