In the Big Little Lies season-two premiere, a lot has changed around Monterey: Madeline now has AirPods and sells houses, Celeste and Bonnie give long blank stares in nature, Jane has a new job at the aquarium, and Renata is still Renata. Everyone still trades barbs and secrets, of course, except Meryl Streep is in town too!
The episode’s greatest, most bizarre moment has to be seen to be believed, however: To blow off steam, Jane (Shailene Woodley) dances alone on the beach. She moves wildly and freely, but what’s that playing in her headphones? The light strumming and coy whisper of a Sufjan Stevens song. Not just any Sufjan Stevens song — “Mystery of Love,” the Sufjan Stevens song written for Call Me by Your Name. This is the song Elio and his Oliver made out to! What the hell is it doing here?
I love how absolutely zany this is! Big Little Lies using the Call Me by Your Name song is like Big Little Lies soundtracking school pickup with The Office theme song, or Madeline’s daughter Abigail writing a college essay about how a movie about a blonde Harvard law student turned her off of the idea of college entirely. Imagine a Big Little Lies scene where Celeste’s sons become obsessed with running around in their underwear because they saw Risky Business on Cinemax late one night after Mary Louise had gone to bed. Only Big Little Lies could’ve pulled this off.
So who else in this fictional Monterey — a place, I need to remind you, where Shailene Woodley’s character dances on the beach to “Mystery of Love” — has seen and/or read Call Me by Your Name? Vulture has some wild speculation on how the love of Oliver and Elio entered the BLL-verse.
An open house was canceled at the last minute and Madeline had time to kill. She went to get a pedicure, but her salon was all booked. There was a movie theater across the street, and she decided that she had time for a matinee. (She’s a purveyor of the arts, after all!) She wept through it, was absolutely destroyed by it. When she asked Abigail about it, Abigail said she’d read it and her friends loved the movie but she thought it was rich-people porn. Madeline read the book in one night and texted Celeste pictures of her favorite pages. She loved the father’s speech at the end. “Why can’t we be more like that?!” she asked Ed over dinner one night. She left the book out on their bedside table for him to read. (He liked it too.) Madeline didn’t get why Elio and Oliver shat in the same toilet without flushing, though.
Kept getting texts of pages from some book from Madeline. Against her better judgment, she decided to watch the movie adaptation one night while the boys slept over at a friend’s house. Was absolutely devastated by the scene where Elio’s mom picks him up from the train station. Texted Madeline a bunch of peach emoji mid-watch: “HE EATS THE 🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑 PEACH?? 🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑” Immediately downloaded the Sufjan Stevens song and requests it for every yoga cool-down. The teacher does not honor her request.
Also kept getting texts of pages from some book from Madeline, who thought she was texting Celeste. Upon closer inspection, she realized that these were from Call Me by Your Name, that one movie she loved! Jane’s favorite character was Elio, and her favorite scene was when Elio confronts Oliver at the old statue and tells him how he feels: “Why are you telling me this?” Oliver asks, his face obscured behind dark sunglasses. “Because I wanted you to know, because I wanted you to know,” Elio replies dreamily. Was devastated by the ending. She and Madeline went on a whole coffee date just to really dig into the text.
Definitely did not watch Call Me by Your Name, because she was busy grieving/feeling guilty in Tahoe with her family. Instead, on the five-hour drive back, she texted Madeline asking, “Is this the movie everyone is talking about?” and sent a photo of Beautiful Boy. Unfortunately, because she felt bad about her radio silence in the group chat, she did watch Beautiful Boy. The house looked kinda familiar.
Didn’t intend to watch Call Me by Your Name (because she doesn’t trust Madeline’s taste), but when a colleague and her assistant kept talking about this cute boy with pale skin who looked honestly a little bit malnourished, Renata decided to rent it one night. Once she realized that Armie Hammer — the rich kid from The Social Network? — was supposed to be romanced by a teenager, she rolled her eyes and started watching Succession instead. (She loves Shiv, obviously.) What business does a 24-year-old have even talking to a 17-year-old? she thought. It’s just not appropriate. Three weeks later, she ran into Armie at a fancy Hammer Museum gala and cooed its praises, even though she couldn’t remember his scene partner so she kept calling him “that cute little boy.”
Absolutely not. Ab-solute-ly. Not. She heard half of it, though, muffled through the walls after Celeste fell asleep with the TV on. It’s all madness, Mary Louise thought to herself, but she did have a soft spot for Mafalda.