Apr 30, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Reese Witherspoon has a pretty good track record. She producedGone Girl andWild. Her last effort,Big Little Lies, garnered several Emmys. This TV series was so successful that the second season has attracted the talents of no less a prestigious personage than Meryl Streep. Reese’s efforts were all adapted from best-selling books so when she optioned Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and cast herself and Kerry Washington in leading roles, my interest was piqued. Her driving force in establishing her production company was not only to interpret the recent work of female authors but to showcase the talents of women of a certain age who have always been discriminated against in Hollywood.
The story begins in Shaker Heights a liberal, upscale suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Everything in this enclave is planned: the streets, the houses and even the professional lives of its inhabitants. The venue reminded me so much of social activist songwriter Malvina Reynolds’ satire on suburban life, “Little Boxes”. “There’s a pink one, and a blue one, and yellow one and a white one......and they all go to the university and they all come out just the same.” No one embodies this perspective or personifies its spirit more than journalist/housewife Elena Richardson. She follows the rules.
Into Mrs. Richardson ordered existence enters Mia who is a single mother with a daughter Pearl. Soon Mia, Pearl and the four Richardson children become completely entangled. Mia is an artist with a different sensibility who views life through a contrasting lens from the inhabitants of Shaker Heights. When the Richardson’s close friends adopt an abandoned Chinese baby, Mia and Elena choose opposing sides in a contentious custody suit. Antagonized, Elena delves into Mia’s mysterious past with devastating results.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the ferocious drive of the maternal instinct. It posits the theory that perhaps some skeletons are best left in the closet. Most of all it questions following the strict rules that govern elite suburbia. The little fires are real and metaphorical. Flames of race, class, family ethics are fanned by those who hold rigid views and consider the status quo sacred. The TV eight-episode limited series version of this novel ignited a bidding war which was won by Hulu.
I’m anxious to see how the plot has been interpreted on film but read the book first.
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