Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ adaptation is almost as good as its source material
There’s a reason Celeste Ng’s firecracker of a novel is called ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ — its incendiary spirit is one that permeates all throughout the novel within its cast of characters, yet is kept at a contained simmer, almost but not quite spilling out in the open. It is this restrained quality that makes the book so special, and what the limited Hulu series almost, but not quite, achieves in its adaptation.
If anything, the novel’s also a masterclass in character portraits, and the dynamics amongst the residents of the spotless, picture-perfect town of Shaker Heights. There is the Richardson family: Elena and Bill Richardson, and their four children: Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. The Richardsons are by all means the very picture of a privileged white family in the late ’90s, and the stark opposite to Mia and Pearl Warren, the mother and daughter who the Richardsons soon become enmeshed with.
It is the dynamics of these two families that drives most of the plot, when the differences between both sides collide, and sparks inevitably begin to rise. But where the novel excelled in carefully illustrating the sparks that simmered just below the surface of each character, Hulu’s adaptation seems to prefer direct, overt confrontations, that do, unfortunately, tread into soap opera-like territory at times.
It’s truly quite a disservice, as the series’ cast is an excellent roster from its teens to its adults, and it’s truly intriguing to watch each character’s unique arc. Kerry Washington and Lexi Underwood are easily believable as mother and daughter, as are each of the Richardson clan — Reese Witherspoon, as per usual, is pitch-perfect as Elena, right down to every subtle flick of her blonde hair.
It’s also important too to note, however, that there are a handful of significant changes from book to screen, most of which manage do manage to work, although the fiery restraint that made the Celeste Ng’s novel such a spellbinding read is somewhat sacrificed. Despite this, however, Hulu’s adaptation manages to stand as a fascinating, intensely intriguing piece of television, and an excellent class in character portraits, quite unlike many others in the current television landscape.