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Sharp Objects: Why the Series Deserves Your Attention

Sharp Objects

Author Gillian Flynn’s most recognizable written work is undoubtedly Gone Girl, the tumultuous novel that quickly became a global sensation as a blockbuster film. But in the past few years, other adaptations of her work have shone as examples of excellent thriller stories brought to life on the big screen. A visual retelling of Dark Places entered this arena in 2015, followed a few years later by another incredible interpretation of Flynn’s very first book. Sharp Objects was released in 2018 as a limited series on HBO, bringing together a stellar cast against a haunting backdrop.

The story captures the homecoming of Camille Preaker, a journalist assigned to write about a mysterious murder and the disappearances of two teen girls in Wind Gap, Missouri, her storied and secret-filled hometown. Coming back into contact with her well-to-do mother Adora Crellin and her popular sister, Amma, forces Camille to confront skeletons in her closet from her dark past. This brings the obscured events of the present into the forefront in the process, drawing her deeper into an ongoing investigation that dredges up her own trauma. The series was rightfully showered with awards and nominations following its release, and the show still stands as an excellent interpretation of a close-to-home murder mystery. This is why Sharp Objects deserves your attention.

Amy Adams’s interpretation of the character of Camille is surely one of her best performances to date. Positioning this central figure back within the horrors of her past, the investigation she finds herself in reminds her of why she left her hometown for St. Louis. Through flashbacks, the audience conceptualizes the sting of what happened there, including her sister Marian’s death at a young age and her difficult adolescence. We learn that Camille grapples with harming herself physically; that she was recently hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, and that she battles an ongoing addiction to alcohol. When her newspaper assignment thrusts her back into the fray of her traumatic upbringing, these difficulties resurge for her and take on a new depth.

Viewers also come to understand where these dark influences stem from, as we’re introduced to Adora and her biting remarks towards Camille, which she’s endured since childhood. Camille soon discovers that she and her sisters have long been the victims of Adora’s apparent Munchausen syndrome by proxy, as it’s revealed that their mother is to blame for their late sister Marian’s early death. Later, when Amma’s involvement in the murders is revealed, audiences are left with a multifaceted view of mental illness, the different forms it can take within a family, and its hereditary nature.

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Sharp Objects received seemingly endless recognition for its cast, direction, and excellence in developing an immersive feel. This is achieved in part by its soundtrack, which brings together a multitude of different musicians that fuse together hip-hop influences, old-timey swing, and down-home twang. According to an article from IndieWire, an original backing score isn’t found in Sharp Objects, which instead relies on a moody combined soundtrack to set the scene – collaborators on the story looked for songs that contained the word “mama,” creating a theme important to the familial hardships that the show captures.

Visually, the series envelops audiences within a world of its own, functioning almost as a dark piece of folklore that flashes between the past and present within the heartland of a small Missouri town. The familiarly ambiguous feel of overgrown greenery, stately homes, and old secrets might jog the memory of anyone who’s spent time in a small town like this one. This atmosphere might be best observed in episode 6, “Cherry,” in which Amma encourages Camille to do drugs with her and take a trippy tour of Wind Gap in the dark on skates. An otherworldly feeling is brought out by this creative landscape, making viewers believe they’re in another realm entirely.

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Summed up most succinctly in a New York Times review, the story “is not built as a jigsaw-puzzle-style whodunit; it’s more a meticulously constructed dollhouse, a recurring image in the series.” This brings viewers back to the idea of home not being a supposed safe place. Adora Crellin’s house is filled with finery, and anything questionable has been glossed over with the veneer of the perfect put-together family. Eliza Scanlen’s portrayal of Amma adds a sickly-sweet feeling to the already deep drama that unfolds as a result of her underhanded actions. Next to her sister Camille, the two couldn’t be more different, but viewers soon come to understand the secrets beneath their surfaces.

Camille’s demons are displayed outwardly as self-harm scars all over her body in the form of different words, complemented by her alcoholism. But within, her pursuit of justice and continued healing serve her well in the delineation of her family’s involvement in the mysteries surrounding her. Amma’s angelic exterior causes audiences not to suspect her for a second, until the story’s jarring final reveal in its last episode when Camille looks closer into Amma’s dollhouse. This juxtaposition alone encourages viewers that they cannot always bank on what they think to be true, quite a concept for Wind Gap residents to wrap their heads around.

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