Cameron Lee ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for Sharp Objects.
The first thing one should do after finishing the eight-episode run of Sharp Objects is to immediately start back from the beginning and watch it again. The last few minutes of Sharp Objects completely change the entire meaning of the series and recontextualizes everything. Watching this haunting, disturbing, stress-inducing, beautifully-made and acted miniseries isn’t the worst thing one can do with their free time. Based on the debut novel by Gone Girl author, Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille, a self-harming/destructive reporter returning to her hometown of Windgap, Missouri to report on the vicious murder of two young girls while also dealing with her troubled and traumatic past. The series is directed with precision by Jean-Marc Vallee of Dallas Buyers Club and Big Little Lies fame. A lot of the key information and character details are told through visuals, silent quick flashbacks to Camille’s youth, amazing sound design, and editing that harken back to the work of director Lynne Ramsay. There are chilling uses of music, including Led Zeppelin, which is rare for any visual medium. Vallee gives us all the information in this unconventional approach; in fact, some reports claim that the producers and the entire cast forced him to include more dialogue as he wasn’t following the scripts, some of which were written by Gillian Flynn.
The entire cast deliver career-best performances: Amy Adams continues to be a national treasure as the damaged reporter, Camille. She’s devastating in her portrayal of a woman dealing with her demons. From her haunting breakdowns, distressed face and body language, and no-B.S., attitude Adams delivers one of her finest performances to date. The same can be said of Patricia Clarkson as Camille’s despicable and horrible mother, Adora, whose coldness and cruelty towards Camille should win her a bunch of Worst Mother of the Year award; or the Worst Mother Ever award. It’s a cold performance that is haunting, yet it’s clear that Clarkson and Adams are having a ball working off of one another. Their relationship is deep and multi-layered, but that mother-daughter relationship is only second to the show’s best relationship: Camille and her crazy half-sister Amma, played by newcomer Eliza Scanlen in a breakthrough performance. Amma is a wild card of a character whose unpredictable nature makes her a source of great discomfort in the series. When Amma and her posse are roller-skating at night their shadows are like demons riding along a road of darkness.
Besides the excellent acting and direction, Sharp Objects is rich in atmosphere. It’s one of dread and pain; the town of Windgap becomes so unpleasant to watch on screen that a dead young girl found brutally murdered in an alley feels more like a window decoration instead of a murder victim. If one could smell the fictional town of Windgap it would cause vomit to spew out. The series has such a thick and strong atmosphere that it’s enough to smother any positivity out of you. Yet while the show is uncomfortable to watch, it also serves as a kind of drug. The more we find out about Camille’s past and recount the many visual clues the series has shown us, a picture begins to form of what’s actually going on. And that means the viewer must always be focused and patient with the series in order to get a grasp on what’s happening. It’s a refreshing approach to a murder mystery that offers a huge reward and reveal at the very end that, on one hand, is utterly devastating, but on the other hand is very satisfying and a perfect way to close the series.
Watching Sharp Objects is like putting your fist in your own mouth then screaming your lungs out. It’s a brutal, visceral viewing experience that gets under your skin and makes you question if you really know a person or even a close family member. It’s about the false perceptions that people have on females versus males. And it’s an adrenaline rush of pain and trauma that after a while becomes candy to the eyes rather than just misery porn. Sharp Objects is a nightmare, but one that you don’t mind never waking up from.
Series Grade: A