I know that the HE commentariat disapproves of my watching HBO all the time, but I’ve forgotten if they approve or disapprove of Big Little Lies. I’ve been watching season #2 all along, mostly because of Meryl Streep. I wasn’t all that big on season #1, which was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee; season #2 has been directed by Andrea Arnold, but not in a style that anyone would call Arnold-esque (hand-heldy, here and there, natural light). It just feels smooth and steady for the most part.
Today an Indiewire piece by Chris O’Falt (“Big Little Lies’ Season 2 Turmoil: Inside Andrea Arnold’s Loss of Creative Control“) reports that after Arnold finished shooting season #2 last year, Vallee and Big Little Lies producer David E. Kelley stepped in and ordered extra shooting, and then cut Arnold’s creative balls off during editing.
O’Falt: “According to a number of sources close to the production, there was a dramatic shift in late 2018 as the show was yanked away from Arnold, and creative control was handed over to executive producer and Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallee. The goal was to unify the visual style of Season 1 and 2. In other words, after all the episodes had been shot, take Arnold’s work and make it look and feel like the familiar style Vallée brought to the hit first season.”
“It was [just] as Arnold started to assemble scenes that Kelley and HBO started to see there was a problem,” O’Falt continues. “Before Arnold and her London editing team were able to even complete an official cut of an episode, Vallée started to take over. Post-production shifted from London to Vallée’s home city of Montreal, where his own editorial team started cutting what is now airing on HBO. Soon after, 17 days of additional photography were scheduled.”
So why did Kelley and his HBO bosses agree to hire a headstrong director with a distinctive dart-and-shoot style if what they really they wanted was someone who would more or less ape Vallee’s approach?
The apparent answer is that Kelley and HBO execs weren’t all that familiar with Arnold’s previous films (Red Road, Fish Tank, American Honey) and were therefore taken aback when they saw her season #2 footage. O’Falt reports that Arnold was more or less hired because of Vallee’s recommendation.
O’Falt: “The optics were not lost on many associated with Big Little Lies: A show dominated by some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood hired a fiercely independent woman director…who was now being forced to watch from the director’s chair as scenes were shot in the style of her male predecessor.”