A little love for “Big Love”

HBO’s early renewal of Big Love for a third season is great news for those of us hooked on this compelling series about a polygamous family in Utah. Yes, I said a polygamous family in Utah. And you should watch this, why?

Well, here’s the easy answer.

Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin play the three sister-wives at the core of the family. And they inhabit their parts so completely, it’s hard to imagine them in previous roles.

Tripplehorn, whose movie debut was as a psychiatrist in Basic Instinct (she was the one who did wear panties), plays Barb Henrickson, the first wife and only one legally married to Bill (played by Bill Paxton).

As a teacher and the sister-wife most visible in the community, Barb’s story feels all too familiar at times. A recent story line saw Barb’s nomination as her community’s Mother of the Year crumble when she was outed as a polygamist. Ouch.

Sevigny, recently named No. 1 on AfterEllen.com’s Top 15 Hottest Butches list, is Nicky Grant, second wife and the one most devoted to “the principle” of plural marriage.

Sevigny’s role as conservative, tightly wound Nicky is eons away from projects like Boys Don’t Cry, If These Walls Could Talk 2 and Brown Bunny. Not that I saw Brown Bunny. Ew. But her ability to make us love the manipulative, often whiny Nicky is a testament to how good she is in this part. Sevigny deserves an Emmy. ‘nuff said.

Goodwin, who played Johnny Cash’s first wife in Walk the Line, is the youngest, most effusive sister-wife, Margene Heffman.

Margene is the source of much of the humor in the show. She is madly in love with Bill and absolutely devoted to her sister-wives and their collective children. She’s also very naïve — she wrestles with Barb’s 17-year-old son with nary a thought that she, at 23, might arouse more than maternal feelings in him. And her recent struggle with telling her mother the truth about her lifestyle … well, been there.

This season of Big Love has taken us beyond each wife’s marriage to Bill to explore the relationships between the wives themselves. Barb, Nicky and Margene consider themselves married not only to Bill, but also to each other.

Wait. Women married to each other? Hmm.

Don’t get me wrong. Big Love is no sweet parable about discrimination. The underlying theme is submission to the patriarchy. And some of the subject matter is troubling, from coerced underage marriage to hints of incest. But it’s often funny — and always entertaining. I am enthralled with the show because I truly care about these characters and want to know what happens to them.

Does anyone else watch Big Love? What do you think? And is anyone cooler than Chloe Sevigny?



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