It was not long ago that the world was gifted with the twisted tale of the beautiful, yet cunning sociopath housewife, Amy Elliot of Gillian Flynn’s murder mystery Gone Girl. Her second published novel and David Fincher’s (Seven, Fight Club) 2014 film adaptation starring Ben Affleck (Justice League, The Accountant) and Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Pride & Prejudice) stirred up quite a discussion among readers and viewers giving us something with more flavor to chew on than most crime dramas have before. Flynn is not afraid to creep into the dark places of our minds (see what I did there?) and skillfully forces us to follow along. It is now that her first published (and easily darkest) novel Sharp Objects, is being given the on-screen treatment by Blumhouse Productions and Entertainment One.
The premiere of the first episode this past Sunday evening, exclusively on HBO, drew fans back into Flynn’s intriguing world of murder, secrets, sex, and lies. Proving that not only is her storytelling back in an all new way, but that it was always there from the beginning.
Sharp Objects, a psychological thriller if there ever was one, focuses on an observant, but emotionally troubled reporter Camille Preaker, lured back to her Missouri hometown of Wind Gap, and her own treacherous past, to cover the story of a potential serial killing leaving one young girl dead and one girl missing all within the span of about nine months.
Though it sounds like a typical plot line with a guess-who-the-killer-is hook, much like Wind Gap itself, there is so much more to Sharp Objects beneath the surface.
Let’s start with a recap, shall we?
Sharp Objects Recap: Episode 1
Properly named Vanish, the first episode of this limited series does well to set us up with our main character, Camille, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, American Hustle), and the reasoning behind her hometown return. It presents the plot that will drive the next seven episodes: Camille will report on the murder of one child, Ann, and the disappearance of another, Natalie. We are acquainted with the setting, the seemingly reticent town of Wind Gap. Everything in between introduces us to the suspicious ensemble of secondary characters, those of which include the affluent Adora and Alan Crellin – Camille’s mother and step-father, their capricious 13-year old daughter Amma, the local badge Chief Vickery, Adora’s obnoxious but lovable estranged friend Jackie, John Keene – the dreamy, but brooding brother of Natalie, and the handsome out-of-town detective Richard Willis.
We see Camille hesitant to return home, pushed only to return in order to please her editor. Proven especially with her chilling family’s welcoming being anything but warm. Upon arrival in Wind Gap, Camille is met with a resistant Chief Vickery as he judicially vies to protect the town and all the secrets it harvests from public exposure.
Camille pokes and prods her way around town running into essential characters including some very mature preteen girls hanging around the search party. Jackie, who’s recently had a minor “falling out” with her mother, and the new detective in town who seems hesitant to share anything with Camille aside from a drink… for now.
The relationship she has with her perfect mother, Adora, played by the talented Patricia Clarkson (The Green Mile), is obviously tense and effected by some important event that is soon to reveal itself as the woman chooses to remain completely indifferent to who her daughter is and what she does for a living. Within a few lines of dialogue its easy to see her mother is not all there mentally and is dangerously obsessed with what people think and say about her. The people of Wind Gap are not privy to those who are different, but there will be much more to say about that throughout the series. Her stepsister, Amma, a puzzle all her own, seems to play both the wild street tart by day and the innocent china doll of the Crellin home by night. Camille learns the proper girl building a miniature house in the living room that her mother dotes on just so happens to be one of the cheeky preteens she observed on roller skates smoking a joint outside of the search party.
She can barely last a full ten minutes in the large family mansion before running out the front door as her memories, literally, chase her. Like anyone facing the company of wretched family, the artificial etiquette of neighbors, and the sugar-coated town she once ran from on top of a grizzly child murder and disappearance, Camille overindulges in booze and, not without distraction, trying her best to stick to her professional purpose as best as she can. She struggles against being absorbed by this toxic town, but that may prove to be a difficult task when she is being quickly outnumbered by her demons. She reverts to the local dive bar, seemingly familiar territory, to temporarily escape.
Camille is able to interview Ann’s father in an attempt to keep her story relevant and pull the pieces together to find Natalie. The grief-stricken father offers up little information other than that Ann was different from the other girls her age, something Camille can empathize with being an outsider her whole life as well. His demeanor is predictably off-kilter.
When Camille crosses paths with the preteens again, who are now accompanied by Natalie’s handsome older brother, pillaging the town’s memorial for mementos. The tension is broken by screams of true fear coming from the local diner.
Natalie’s body is found propped up against a window between the diner and another building, in broad daylight. They all rush to the scene, but it is clear the poor girl is dead. As much as Adora and the locals want to push the bad thought aside, Wind Gap will have to face reality and come to terms with the ghastly gut-punch that is a real life serial killer in their midst. A child murderer.
Our episode concludes with Camille slipping herself into a hot bath, for the first time exposing her bare body to us covered in striking scars. Dozens of words are etched into her skin from neck to ankle, Vanish being predominant before the end credits appear.
Aside from increasing the pace and working Camille’s homecoming into one episode for time’s sake, it looks like Sharp Objects will align pretty closely to the novel. Readers are sure to appreciate this, if it remains consistent, as Flynn’s story is an enigma in need of no changes.
The story unfolds exquisitely and harshly all at once, like a knife piercing skin. Initially, you’re numb to the blade, but once that blood starts moving you can’t help but feel the rush of pain.
Amy Adams steps into the part of a stressed, introverted, complicated loner with such ease it is almost impossible to remember that she once played the role of a merry, vibrant singing princess in Enchanted. Her performance is everything we can expect from the actress and more. Somehow she shows the anxious movements and heavy baggage Camille hauls around with her physically making the character real, like someone you grew up with and bumped into at the local grocery store 15 years later. It’s obvious she is beautiful as it’s noted Camille was always a looker, but over time and some serious self-torment she has hardened and that shows in her appearance. That is the Amy Adams we are seeing here. Still beautiful, but rough. She has that look of disconnect at first and slowly we can see her acclimating now that she’s returned to the place she once called home. Even her slight Missouri accent, and the way it strengthens over time of reverted subjection to the locals, is enough to show off her fierce acting chops. She is absolutely fantastic.
I truly enjoyed the flashback scenes and semi-dream sequences and the way they drift in and out of Camille’s consciousness. My own sister, who knows nothing about film, even commented on liking the way the memories came into play cutting off reality into silence and pure thought processing. Is that not what happens when we think of something in our own minds while carrying on a conversation with other people? When we walk into a familiar room, do we not think of what took place there, ghosts appearing right before our eyes, all the while remaining in present time? Viewers may be a little confused by the ins and outs of this flashback technique, but in all good time it will make sense and prove necessary. The way her childhood thoughts manifest themselves leading one scene into another is truly eerie and gives Sharp Objects the scary little edge we crave. The unknown is supreme here, almost like a character itself. There is no exposition to this story, we are along with Camille in figuring things out when it comes to these murders as well as recalling the dark thoughts and memories she’s worked to hard to push aside.
“The unknown is supreme here, almost like a character itself.”
Director Jean-Marc Vallee (Big Little Lies) does a fantastic job bringing this strange, yet common word to life. His plays on color and light truly set the mood for the shady histories set in Wind Gap and the ugliness our characters hide. Everything from the ominous music to the delicate china is meticulously perfected, setting a tantalizing tone that we can only hope lasts us through to the end. Vallee’s flair for the feminine and the frightening in a real world setting is untouchable.
Viewers should be aware that Sharp Objects is deep in hidden subject matter and begs us to question our relationships with others as with ourselves. It’s a story I relate to personally so I am extremely ready to share my thoughts and will be happily at the forefront to travel into Wind Gap with you, exploring this interesting territory and all the seedy secrets laid within its rich farmland over the next few weeks. In my opinion, as an initial episode setting up a lot of ground only a first-person narrated novel can establish, Vanish was a success.
Stay tuned as we’ll see what Camille digs up next Sunday for Sharp Object’s second episode, Dirt – on HBO.