When I first heard that Andrea Arnold had been hired to direct the second season of Big Little Lies, I was elated. The British director has three Cannes Jury Prizes under her belt (for three out of her four features), as well as an Academy Award for Best Short, and her distinctive, dreamy visual style, and history of empathetic portrayals of women in difficult moral quandaries, seemed a perfect fit for the hit HBO show — with the added bonus of introducing her to a more mainstream audience. But something’s been off about this season, which aired its penultimate episode on Sunday, and now, we know why.
On Friday, Indiewire published a story alleging behind-the-scenes drama between Arnold and season 1 director turned executive producer Jean-Marc Vallee, who, along with show creator and writer David E. Kelley, reportedly wrested creative control from her in post-production. If that’s true, the final product, far from being representative of Arnold’s original vision for the season, is more like a mish-mash of footage, re-shoots, and major edits, all meant to give the illusion of visual cohesiveness with Vallee’s Emmy-winning first season. If true, these revelations would be incredibly disappointing, especially for a show that has been so praised for its role in uplifting women in Hollywood.
HBO responded to the allegations in a statement provided to Refinery29: “There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.”
Still, the news has caused critics to reassess certain moments in the show (like the now-infamously deleted ice-cream scene), wondering whether or not they were part of Arnold’s original cut. So far, the scene of Jane dancing to the soundtrack from Call Me By Your Name in the season premiere seems the most in line with Arnold’s style and penchant for quirky musical cues, but overall, the season’s aesthetics overwhelmingly lean towards Vallee’s signature interplay of memory and flashback cuts.
But if you’re curious about Arnold’s filmography, or just want to be able to spot her signature flourishes within Big Little Lies, we’ve rounded up some of her best, must-watch work. By the end of your marathon, you’ll want to pull a Laura Dern and buy this T-shirt.