Big Little Lies - Season 2 Final Cut Drama
With 8 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes for Season 1 alone, the Big Little Lies series is without a doubt one of HBO's prestige series, which the audience always expects more of than others anyway. Behind the camera, two men, Producer David E. Kelley and Director Jean-Marc Vallée, were responsible. In front of the camera, women dominate the action. In addition to Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern also appear. Kidman and Witherspoon are also producers.
After the seemingly perfect first round in 2017, the reviews for season 2 this year were a little worse - even the addition of Meryl Streep didn't help. Especially inconsistencies in the story and confusing cuts are criticized. How could this happen?
According to Indiewire's exclusive report, it all started with director Jean-Marc Vallée wanting to shoot Sharp Objects with Amy Adams, so he wasn't available in time for season 2. Not too big a problem, because with Andrea Arnold (American Honey) the producers found a worthy replacement. And it was assumed that her visual style matched Vallée's award-winning work well. That's why she was allowed to work for more than a year without much supervision and, above all, without a style guide. Arnold thought she would have the control she had during pre-production and shooting in post-production, as well. She wanted to complete the work with her own team.
But producer and showrunner David E. Kelley had another plan that Arnold didn't know about. Because by now Vallée had finished his work on Sharp Objects and wanted to get his own team into the post-production of Big Little Lies and adapt everything that was shot to the first season’s style. Arnold lost creative control over her previous work. HBO also found that Arnold's style was quite different from Vallée's.
Even before the first episode of Team Arnold was finished in London, the post-production moved to Team Vallée in Montreal. Vallée also had clear control over various post-productions, even though Arnold was on the set as a director. Vallée told Arnold what to shoot and how to do it. In order to adapt the style of the new episodes to season 1, much of what Arnold was shooting had to be ignored, which resulted in cuts. While no episode of season 1 had less than 50 minutes, some episodes of season 2 only made it to 45 minutes, even if the script length would actually result in more material. For this, they split single scenes and cut back and forth more often. Flashbacks for the first season were also used regularly. Arnold herself didn't comment on it, but it is reported that she is incredibly frustrated and disappointed with what was done with her work.
Another interesting side issue of the conflict is the role of women and men. In front of the camera, the women clearly dominate, behind the camera there were two men in season 1 with Kelley and Vallée, even though Kidman and Witherspoon are influential producers. For season 2 there was female reinforcement with director Arnold and the success of the series was celebrated regularly as an example of women's empowerment and praised the good cooperation of strong and independent women. So how could it happen that the director was apparently dropped by everyone?
While it is always easy to see the guilt again only in the two men, one has to ask oneself why all the influential women, especially those who also had real power as producers, did nothing to prevent this. Apart from PR gossip, there is no one who speaks clearly.
Were HBO and the men really able to assert themselves here against all the women's power or were the actresses jointly responsible for Arnold's exclusion and now just don't want to admit that they sacrificed a comrade-in-arms? No doubt they wanted to repeat the success of the first season, Arnold's vision was a risk.
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