From the moment Sharp Objects was first announced, I was already all in. Jean-Marc Vallée is one of my favorite contemporary directors, so I wasn't going to miss his second HBO series. Vanish, the series’ pilot, oozes an immediately recognizable tone of wasted dreams and childhood baggage. It's beautiful and powerfully feminine as it circles around Amy Adams' damaged portrayal of Camille Preaker. It's the alcoholic, lonelier niece of Big Little Lies.
The biggest difference between the two series' is that Big Little Lies explores how women are affected by male-driven abuse/violence, while Sharp Objects delves into the depths of female on female abuse; a much, much darker, more manipulative, passive aggressive, and, in my opinion, more interesting premise. There is something much more primitive about male cruelty; men are more physically imposing, therefore, it's much easier for them to hurt women. Women need to twist the knife much deeper to make an impact. There's nothing more dangerous than a woman scorned, but there's an added level of complexity to female violence. We are bred as the less violent counterparts of our male equivalents, so it takes much more for a woman to kill.
Camille Preaker, a journalist, is given an assignment that places her back in her chilly, traumatic hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. A teenage girl was brutally murdered and everyone is pointing fingers at the misfits. With her trusty sidekick of alcohol in an Evian bottle, Camille reunites with her ice-cold mother, bratty step-sister, old family-friends, and caddy high school classmates. Camille is both worshipped and despised in equal part for getting out of Wind Gap; nothing ever changes in this small town.
Camille is a scarred individual—both literally and figuratively. Her very traumatic life has led her to commit self-harm in the form of cutting and alcoholism. Much like a newspaper, words cover every inch of her body.
We get glimpses into her childhood through second-long flashbacks and, suffice to say, none of it was pretty. Her mother never loved her, her sister died when she was a kid, she was gang-raped in high school, and her roommate at rehab drank poison and killed herself.
Camille has had it pretty hard and while uncovering who is responsible for the gruesome killings is riveting, her journey to solve her personal mysteries ultimately takes center stage. She is a deeply destructive individual and highly problematic journalist. She sleeps with the lead detective and lead suspect of the case. Concerns are certainly raised over the unethical, female journalist trope. It is, indeed, a tired one, but I’m not mad at Sharp Objects. It’s a beautifully written, eloquently performed, and perfectly crafted survey into the harm women cause one another. What begins as a murder mystery morphs into a deeply fascinating character study of multi-faceted, complex women. Camille, Amma, and Adora are all thoroughly unlikeable, yet unbelievably captivating.
Within the show's 8, hour-long episodes, Jean-Marc Valleé ushers in a new era of Auteur television; one where the director is, indeed a primary role. In most cases today, the top of the television hierarchy are the writers and creators while the director is interchangeable from episode to episode. Vallée and his collaboration with HBO takes David Lynch's foray into television with Twin Peaks to new heights as he directs all 8 episodes--imprinting his stamp of influence on every single second of the series.
Sharp Objects has a style I have never seen on television before and I would emphatically recommend it. I would certainly add, however, that it is harrowingly dark and completely demanding. It’s something you have to pay attention to and—to me—that’s the best television there is. The twist is strong and grounded enough that it even makes the series worth a second or third watch. The more or less you know about the characters changes each and every scene drastically. Shows like Sharp Objects are precisely why they say it’s not TV, it’s HBO.