The Reel Review

B

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington star in this Hulu TV series based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel about two moms in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the late 1990s – one is white, successful and upper middle class – the other is black and a nomadic, struggling artist. Melodrama unfolds in their families when their lives become entangled.

The eight, hour long episodes look A LOT like HBO’s Big Little Lies – Witherspoon again plays a bossy, well-to-do control freak, both shows start with a big mysterious, calamitous event followed by a retrace of the events leading up to it, and both explore socioeconomic class differences. Where it differs is the addition of Washington (who frequently looks either angry, confused or exasperated) and in particular, child actors Megan Stott, Lexi Underwood and Gavin Lewis – the kids are ridiculously good.

The production values are technically sound but Ng’s unrealistic and wildly contrived story itself is just so over the top that it can’t really be taken seriously. It just feels hollow. The series, however, is still a pretty fun bit of escapist entertainment, with the emotionally raw, mother/daughter scenes between Washington and Underwood the highlight.

REEL FACTS

• Casting Kerry Washington as Mia in the series added a racial element to the story that didn’t exist in the original novel, in which Mia is white.

Megan Stott and Lexi Underwood

• 16-year-old Megan Stott, who says she is related to The New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, says she didn’t immediately connect with her rebellious character Izzy until she starting exploring her own instances of being bullied, due partly to her small stature – she’s 4’11.

• 16-year-old Lexi Underwood, who listens to Megan Thee Stallion when not working on honors and AP class schoolwork, says method actress Kerry Washington was a mentor to her during their very emotional scenes together.

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