Sharp Objects is dark and progressively more frightening as the 8 episode HBO mini series rolls. It’s full of brilliant performances built around a slowly revealed mystery.
Sharp Objects is 90% female. It stars Amy Adams as Camille Preaker. She’s a reporter dispatched to her home town of Wind Gap, Missouri, when two young women are killed there.
Her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), lets Camille stay in her childhood bedroom while she’s in town working. Adora does not adore Camille – she’s never loved her. Their abusive and toxic relationship is a big part of the story. It unwinds with the same slow reveals as the mysterious murders Camille is there to report.
Adora’s second husband, Alan (Henry Czerny) is the father of Camille’s half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen). Alan stays out of the way as Adora, Camille, and Amma engage in a strange, sick, family dynamic.
The top roles are these three women. The series is based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. It was adapted for television by Marti Noxon. Four women did the majority of the writing: Marti Noxon, Gillian Flynn, Ariella Blejer, and Dawn Kamoche. The director was Jean-Marc Vallée, but as I said, women’s work prevails.
But, oh my, that does not mean the story is sweet and loving. Just the opposite. If you’re familiar with anything by Gillian Flynn you know she’s tricky. She misleads you. She’s unpredictable. She can get macabre.
The main thing we see Camille doing is chugging booze. Endless examples of her drinking habits. As we get to know her better we learn of her cutting. She doesn’t just have a few scratches on her thighs. She’s cut herself from head to toe. She incises her body with the words that tell her story.
Childhood abuse can go two ways. Inward into self-punishment like Camille. Or outward, against society.
Amma is childlike at home. She seeks her mother’s affection. She’s obsessed with a dollhouse that is an exact replica of the near-mansion she lives in. Away from home she’s rebellious, high, drunk, and in search of mayhem. She meets her big sister Camille for the first time when Camille shows up to work on the murder story.
Camille and Amma had another sister, Marian. She died as a child. Adora and Camille are both still very affected by this loss.
The local cops suspect a serial killer. A cop from St. Louis, Detective Richard Wheeler (Chris Messina) is sent to help out. Chief Vickery (Matt Craven) doesn’t trust him to understand the case or the peculiar nature of the folks in Wind Gap.
The chief suspects are Bob Nash (Will Chase), the father of one of the murdered girls, and John Keene (Taylor John Smith) who is the brother of the other murder victim.
The Devil is in the Details
Symbols are everywhere. Sometimes just as a flash – something almost seen. They begin to build up over time. A look in the eyes, a touch, a needle under a fingernail, a mother’s care, a pristine floor, a memory, a fan.
Details accumulate. Abuse across the generations. Mental illness. Lies, weaknesses, needs. Clues to murder.
The details of the way Camille chooses to have sex are telling. The people she lets see her scars, and the reason why she lets them, are also revealing about her. Thank goodness we get the story from Camille’s perspective because she is survivor with a tough exterior but a kind heart. We need at least one in this story.
The story moves very slowly. It almost drags in the middle. As the end nears things become more exciting and dangerous. Once you think you have it all figured out, you find out you don’t.
Sharp Objects paints a portrait of a dark, troubled world. That can drive viewers away, but it’s worth staying around for the ending. The biggest plus the series has going for it is the performances. Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson are both simply brilliant. Eliza Scanlen proves herself an outstanding young talent.
Have you seen this series? What did you think of it?