Sharp Objects created by Marti Noxon (HBO, Crazyrose, Fourth Born, Blumhouse Television)
Starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Eliza Scanlen, Chris Messina, Matt Craven, and Henry Czerny.
Seeing My Parents in Me
I often wonder how much of my parents are in me. Stated differently, when I react to certain stimuli, where do I end and where do my parents, grandparents, and beyond begin?
Am I determined to repeat the same mistakes? Take the same paths?
When I look at my kids, I can see certain tendencies and traits straight out of my playbook. Life almost feels like and endless loop at a photocopier, each reproduction a repetition of the one before it.
I share more than a last name with my family. And those traits represent the passing of something mysterious, noteworthy, and beneficial. Or, it’s the continuation of shame, anxiety, and regret. We pass along much more than we realize.
A Moody Meditation of Family Trauma
While Sharp Objects ostensibly covers a murder mystery in the small Missouri town of Wind Gap, the murders operate secondary to the moody meditation on family trauma.
Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is a journalist at a paper in St. Louis. When a second murder within the same year occurs in Wind Gap, Camille’s editor assigns her the story, despite her reservations. Turns out, Camille grew up in Wind Gap, and she has no desire to go back home and resurface old wounds.
Nevertheless, Camille loads up on the vodka and gets to work.
Camille returns to a town that hasn’t changed much, aside from these two murders. Her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), owns the local slaughterhouse and holds much political and social influence.
Staying with her mom and step dad, Camille reignites her contentious relationship with her mother. Even more, her half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), adds an extra layer of tension in the family dynamic. Amma sways from compliant and proper daughter to rebellious and popular teenager at the snap of a finger.
While Camille digs up details on the case, with the help of Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina), her relationship with her mother deteriorates, and her repressed memories of a childhood she’d rather forget flood back into her mind.
Impeccably crafted, Sharp Objects uses pristine acting, well-developed dialogue, and artfully composed cut scenes to evoke a mood similar to what True Detective Season 2 should’ve been.
For starters, the amount of talent on the screen is astounding. Amy Adams is one of the greatest actors alive and she portrays a character wounded by her past while also resilient and stronger than her colleagues and peers. Adams doesn’t need to go over the top with such a characterization. Instead, she conveys the world with a glance, a drop of cheekbone, or a furrowed brow.
On top of the acting talent, the dialogue allows for the actors to put the weight of the world on every word. In particular, Adams and Clarkson seem to have a point of conflict in every episode where a stray word leaves me gasping as if I just saw a major character death.
And finally, the direction ties it all together. Jean-Marc Valle uses quick cuts and layers, similar to his work in Big Little Lies, to convey the weight of the town’s secrets on Camille. Every nook and cranny of Wind Gap has meaning and a history in Camille’s life and she can’t help but relive that history at every moment during her investigation. The direction allows the viewer to get into the mind of Camille and see the tension she feels while she’s just trying to do the job.
Weaving Together Horror in the Ordinary
And all of this work enhances the underlying theme of Sharp Objects. Our family secrets influence and shape us whether we are aware of it or not. While Camille and Adora snipe at each other, they simultaneously react and process circumstances in a similar manner. While a few twists at the end of the show create a jaw-dropping effect, the quality of Sharp Objects rests in its subtle exploration of family trauma. I hope for the best for me and my kin, but Sharp Objects doesn’t paint an optimistic picture.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5