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TV Review: HBO’s “Sharp Objects” is Slowing Down

Martha Trydahl Martha Trydahl TV Review: HBO’s “Sharp Objects” is Slowing DownPhoto still via IMDb.
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HBO’s Sunday night star, Sharp Objects, takes place in Wind Gap, Missouri, which is within “spittin’ distance to Tennessee.” The show’s location is another character in the show. Small town life and the people in it play a large part in the plot.

The show opens spectacularly. Two young girls are gone: Anne Nash was found strangled and her friend Natalie Keen is missing. St. Louis Chronicle reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is asked to write a feature on the potential serial killer with a hometown perspective.

Immediately, the killer is believed to be an outsider (a local person could have never done this), a man (because of the violent nature of the crimes, and the strength needed to commit them), and a family member (because the girls haven’t been raped). Which, if you’ve ever seen a murder mystery before, likely means the killer is none of those things. Lots of hints have been dropped about the possibility of a female killer. And if anyone can show us how murderous and violent women can be, it’s writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).

There are also several references to gang attacks in Wind Gap. In fact, the town’s festival, Calhoun Day, celebrates the gang rape of a founding father’s wife.

As a whole, Sharp Objects is shadowy, but not unfocused. Camille’s flaws are sharp and in your face. She’s an alcoholic, smoker, cutter, and possibly anorexic. She’s recently out of rehab, but flirts a bit with a sewing needle that she keeps plunged into her car seat.

Amy Adams and director Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies) do a superb job of making the audience feel like an outsider right along with Camille. Whether she’s with her former cheerleader “friends” at a town festival, or just hanging in her childhood home, the discomfort is palpable.

Camille’s tumultuous home life has everything to do with her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson). Clarkson impeccably plays the easily distressed, ice cold town matriarch.

At home, Camille is the whipping boy. She’s blamed for absolutely everything. When Camille returns home to write her article, Adora warns her, “Don’t embarrass me. Again.” Adora also tells everyone to stay away from Camille: “She’s not safe.”

In a heart-wrenching late-night talk on the veranda, Adora explains that Camille is incapable of getting close to people because she’s just like her deadbeat father. Adora looks her right in the eyes and calmly says, “I think that’s why I never loved you. You were born to it…I hope that’s some comfort to you.”

Sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) is quite a character herself. She plays a prim little miss at home with the bows and the dollhouse, but she’s a smoking, drinking, pill-popping punk around town. She’s desperate for a relationship with Camille, but her dark and twisted personality is unsettling.

Thankfully, there are some redeemable characters in the show. Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) is the big city detective who is also putting the moves on Camille.

Camille’s editor Frank (Miguel Sandoval) serves as a father figure. After his daily speaker phone calls with Camille, he and his wife worry over her like a beloved child.

Music and sound, and the absence of sound play a large part in Sharp Objects. Camille is constantly listening to music during her aimless drives around town. Stepdad Alan is also always listening to haunting classical music on his impressive home stereo. But Camille’s many flashbacks, which at times are more like blinks, are either completely quiet or the sound is muffled.

Now in the sixth episode of the season, we’re armed to the teeth with innumerable examples of how awful our murder suspects can be, but we’re no closer to knowing the motive or who did it.

We do know that Adora has been consistently protecting the Nash family, inserting herself into the investigation and interviews. Now that some evidence has been suddenly unearthed and a suspect conveniently identified, it reeks of her involvement.

And why won’t Camille leave her mother’s house? She acts like she is incapable of getting a motel room.

The plot has grown sluggish in the middle, which shows how sometimes these stories don’t work as a TV series. The stretch to eight episodes only hurts the tempo and makes the audience antsy.

Still, I’m looking forward to the final few episodes to see how the story wraps up.

Grade: A-

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