Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s dark and twisted debut novel by Marti Noxon, Sharp Objects is voluntarily a transit of darkness into another life. Noxon is most recently known for being the show-runner and executive producer of Dietland, and her most famous oversight and writing within the hit 90’s show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This limited series is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who also directed all six episodes of Big Little Lies, and stars the multiple Oscar-nominated actress Amy Adams.
Sharp Objects very much feels like the unholy child of Gone Girl and Big Little Lies. The eight-episode limited series is perhaps one of the most distinctive and intense directorial debuts in television history. Adams plays reporter Camille Preaker, who is sent to her hometown in Wind Gap, Missouri, to cover the story of two girls – Ann Nash, murdered, and Natalie Keene, who has gone missing.
Preaker’s boss gives her this assignment as a gesture of compassion and an intention to give her a chance to exercise the childhood traumas that have been haunting her throughout her whole life. Within dealing with her childhood demons, Camille drinks rapidly. She displays that she has massive alcohol dependency, as well as showing us occasional glimpses of scars on her body – indicating a history of self-harm.
A string of hallucinations start to occur when flashbacks of wandering in the woods and teenage dens filled with porn start to close in on Camille’s mind. Wind Gap is like a suffocating dream and the shards of repressed memories that come back to her lead her to the longest and thickest hangover yet – with no real explanation. The troubling hallucinatory scenes that intertwine with Camille’s day-to-day efforts start to build up a picture of the dead and the missing.
The town is noticeably polite and forthcoming with situations surrounding their community, but just like her mother Adora, they want things to stay nice and quiet for as long as they can. This becomes difficult when Keene’s body is discovered, though, as Adora pleads, surely not impossible.
Patricia Clarkson pours so much viciousness and resentment into Adora Crellin. The piercing rays of golden light beaming from her blonde hair makes her come across as a sentimental and respectable mother; but this isn’t the case. Living in a Southern-Gothic house of horrors, we start to see Adora’s passive-aggressiveness lure throughout her actions and behavior, towards the little things her older daughter, Camille, does.
Through flashbacks we are shocked to learn that Adora is a monstrous mother, a hog-farm heiress that tortured her rebellious firstborn out of spite. The home that she lives in is tinged with perfection, but almost seems infiltrated with supernatural possessions. Her dressing room is tiled with real ivory, a platform that poses expense; with even the wall’s painting coming from France. It’s right to think that Adora does it for the public: a disguise of the soft and sweet Southern lady living in a town with a husband and two daughters, while voluntarily offering the community to celebrate annuals outside of her large mansion – but that’s not really her. Adora Crellin is a direct contrast to Camille’s broken skin and crumbling body. Clarkson goes big with her role, giving such a brittle performance that it masks the deep reserves of cruelty under the hollow side of her character’s womanhood.
Wind Gap is a town full of interlocking histories. From the use of drugs, to community-sanctioned rape; at times it seems like the sins of the town is being hidden under the praises of celebrations, all-American-cheer leading groups and annual events. This is dramatically convenient, of course. But it also pin-points the town’s ghastliest secrets and the way that the people within it live their lives. Camille seems to be the only character who sees her hometown for what it really is – a walking manifestation into a pit of darkness.
From the beginning, her sole intentions were to investigate the two mysterious, unsolved crimes and search for clues. But through reuniting with her estranged family and overbearing mother, she has rekindled her traumatic childhood memories and erupted a span of visions of her younger sister Marian, who died from an illness years before. Adams’ character is someone who has to maintain survival at all costs – her life being nothing but desperation, and a headlong attempt to outlast her own pain.
The interactions that she has with Adora bring nothing but stinging pain and an exertion of flashbacks, however her half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) seems to accompany a sign of relief to her burdened mind. Perhaps a reminder of what it was like having a sister; or what it felt like having no absolute care in the world, just the road and a pair of four-wheeled roller-skates.
Amma first walks into Sharp Objects announcing that she has darkness suppressed hiding in her soul. She says to her older sister, “I’m incorrigible. I knew we would be.”, as an early admission to test if Camille is someone she wants to fully connect with after living in the shadow of her late sister, Marian. We then start to truly understand her web of control and way of thinking.
Living as the “it girl” in the town Wind Gap, Missouri, Amma’s life is a huge mess of contradictions. Displaying herself as the perfect Southern daughter when she’s at home, dressing in pink pinafores and bows for her mother’s delight and spending countless hours rearranging her picturesque dollhouse, she is in fact living a secret double life that’s filled with cruel machinations aimed to rule everyone around her. Crellin roller-skates through the town while drunk and high with her friends; terrorizing those living in Wind Gap in attempt to get what she wants – but she hides this rebellious side to Adora.
Amma’s character seems to gain tolerance to her mother’s wants and needs each episode, until finally showing her dislike to Adora’s controlling personality and eventually turning to Camille and telling her that she wants to leave Wind Gap, which I think brings massive effect to Camille. Since being a teenager and living with such an overbearing mother in a town with almost nothing to do, Camille can somewhat relate with her distant half-sister and shows a tendency of support and comfort for her. They form a relationship that resonates with only the similar indiscretions that they both hate about their town and their mother.
In a scene where a drunken Amma returns from a night out in Wind Gap, she says to Camille, “You hate this place like me, but you love dead girls.“; she uses this sentence to try and prove that she and her half-sister are the same – that they both share the same darkness. The other conversations that she has with Camille are mostly based upon soul-baring information that leaves our protagonist hooked to decipher a double meaning.
In one episode, Amma says “Do you ever feel like bad things are gonna happen to you? You can’t stop them? Can’t do anything? You just have to wait?“, which could be considerably tragic for Camille because this statement could embark on her reliving flashbacks from when she and Marian would be treated completely different, and being the oldest, she would have to distant herself away from her mother in case she lashed out with judgement.
Amma is coddled and nurtured throughout the whole series, so its brave to see Camille embrace such an affection for her sister when she has never been nurtured with any endearment in her entire life. Adora even tells Amma to stay away from her sister because she’s “not safe around her” and that she is a “dangerous person”, which just shows the lack of trust and perception that Adora has for her own daughter. It’s a sticking point in their relationship, a continual hatred that they share for each other. This becomes explicitly clear when Adora accidentally slices her hand open on a rose-bush and viciously tells Camille, “nothing is ever your fault.” This is like a wound re-opened from the past, and Adora continues to blame her daughter’s death on Camille; which is undeniably false.
Sharp Objects is such a slow-burning masterpiece. The continuing developments of the mystery in Wind Gap and the perception of women’s violence and viciousness are so exceptionally well-done. Its doubtful that something so dark and immersive could ever be created again. This limited series is a mix of brilliant acting, direction, and storytelling. The intricate details of each character; the glimpses of Camille’s intriguing past and the traumatic events that occur within this ghastly hometown are all beautifully wrapped up in the disturbing undertone and remarkable soundtrack that complements the plot with every episode.
This series holds such a brilliance that occupies a very prominent place in popular culture. From its outwardly realistic performances and atmospheric location shooting, to the sound design and meticulous editing, Sharp Objects is understandably one of most intoxicating and strongest shows that has ever been shown on television. Living as a tactile-seeming depiction of life, it’s truly a tragedy-and a look of how a character can be so damaged from a disappointing childhood that they can spiral into terms through immersing themselves into hell one last time – and managing to survive.