For people who have not read Sharp Objects by best-selling author Gillian Flynn – whose other book Gone Girl was turned into a film by David Fincher – Sharp Objects may well be the perfect series. The season finale leaves you awe struck and horrified at the same time and with many provoking questions.
From creator Marti Nixon (Unreal), writer Gillian Flynn and Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée, it is a must watch show put together by a dream-team.
Amy Adams, who not only stars in it, but is also an executive producer, has given the performance of a lifetime. This is her year when the awards season comes into play, particularly since her performance in the film Arrival also deserved an award.
It is very rare to find an actor in this generation (of actors) who can not only convey emotions through dialogues but by doing the bare minimum actions through their eyes and body language. Amy shines in the best and the most appalling of moments.
In American television universe, there are two kinds of small towns shown on air. One is the small, happy town with eccentric characters as shown in Gilmore Girls or Hart of Dixie. These shows make you want to live in these towns with these people and show you a place where neighbors are real communities and problems tend to sort themselves out.
The other kind of small town is the way it was shown in True Detective, for instance, in its remarkable first season. Dense outdoors, unbearable scorching heat, secrets in every corner and a dark history underneath the layers. This is the kind of darkness that is shown in Sharp Objects.
Sharp Objects is the story of Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a newspaper journalist who lives in St. Louis and is sent back to her hometown, a dreary place called Wind Gap by her caring editor Frank “Curry” to report on a series of brutal murders that have gone unnoticed and lack a national profile. It has also stunned the town she grew up in and has feared returning to.
Wind Gap, the small southern town where Camille comes from is hot, broken down and full of secrets even as everybody claims to be a good neighbor.
For Camille, who is fresh from a psychiatric hospital stay – battling psychological demons – and hasn’t spoken to her mother, Adora Crellin, essayed by a brilliant Patricia Clarkson, for years, it is a return to horror.
Coming back into town, chugging down vodka from water bottles is how she deals with everything. Her emotionally damaging mother, the neurotic Adora Crellin, is the queen of the town and while Camille is back to investigate two murders of young girls, her story and that of the family slowly unravels.
In between Camille and Adora is the loss of a sister and a daughter and Amma Crellin, Adora’s daughter with Alan Crellin, her present husband.
Amma, essayed by Eliza Scanlen, is an enchanting character. Adora’s angelic little doll at home who is also the most disparaging and meanest girl in town. Camille observes her cautiously, taking little interest in the prospect of a half-sister – which changes as the story moves forward.
The three generations of women remain the central focus of the story and that alone is a miraculous feat. Women are often relegated to side roles or as dead bodies as True Detective did so poorly, its biggest flaw.
In Sharp Objects, things are different.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who made Big Little Lies slightly lighter in tone, goes all out, controlling the thriller aspect, while leaving little questions at the end of every episode.
The story also moves between vague flashbacks through which we learn that Camille’s younger sister Marian (Lulu Wilson) died of a prolonged (unknown) illness when they were teenagers. As the story comes to a conclusion, we learn how Marian died and the scars that Camille still has within her and on her.
She cuts herself, which is both addressed in the book and in the series, somewhat. A dysfunctional coping mechanism depicting how women hurt themselves in dealing with internal demons.
Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies) directs these episodes with such sensitivity that the past suddenly seems more relevant than the present, which is a real trick when you consider how tiresome most flashbacks are on TV.
Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) is the out of town investigator, who comes to solve these crimes and it’s his investigative skills that bring the series to a close, finding out the truth about Marian’s death and about the physical and emotional abuse Adora has done to all three of her daughters. Richard disappears when he sees Camille’s scars and that is reflective of the tone within the real book.
The finale of Sharp Objects will no doubt leave viewers with an uneasy feeling and a level of shuddering questions.
Women who commit murder are considered an anomaly. Men are considered to be more violent in nature, while women are homemakers, the caretakers. Throughout most of Sharp Objects, while three women are the center of the story, they’re not considered suspects as the crimes are too violent and full of rage. The series breaks those rules.
It not only shows the rage with which some women can commit criminal acts but also goes to show how the rage can be internalized. It’s not a blood bath but the nuanced effect of emotional damage that can be passed on from generation to generation. The men are the supporting characters in this story and to be honest that makes the series much more appealing.
Those who have read the book will have questions. The way in which Sharp Objects has ended is not how it ends in the book. But it also leaves room for the series to come back with another season, despite being an anthological series with a limited number of episodes.
The exceptional casting of every character, the menacing theme and even the music played throughout the scenes made for impeccable choices. With the way the series ended, one can hope that another season is made that unfolds the story of the true-murderer in Wind Gap and the journey of Camille Preaker as she learns to heal.
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