Gillian Flynn became one of my favorite writers after reading the novel Gone Girl. Her storytelling is masterful, authentic, and intriguing so it’s no surprise that all three of her novels received adaptations of some sort. Gone Girl and Dark Places were movies but Sharp Objects received an HBO limited series adaptation following the successful adaptation of Big Little Lies. I was excited when the possibility of this project was announced about a year or so ago but became obsessed with knowing any detail possible once I learned Amy Adams was cast as the lead.
Sharp Objects is based on a novel that follows Camille Preaker, (Amy Adams), a journalist sent back to her hometown after learning about a violent murder of a young girl. Another body is soon found of another young girl that was previously declared missing and is in the same state as the previous victim; missing teeth. Homecoming slowly feels as though Camille descends back into her personal hell as her mother, Adora, (Patricia Clarkson), silently asserts her dominance not only over the town, husband, and her other daughter Amma, (Eliza Scanlen), but Camille as well. Camille soon discovers that finding out the real culprit behind the murders will take her back into the reasons behind her own depression and the horrors of her upbringing.
HBO’s handling of adapting one of the heaviest, yet one of the shortest, books I’ve ever read is pretty awesome. I’ve felt that some parts of the novel felt more like a horror than just a suspense thriller and the adaptation reflects that as well. Flashes of blood, ghosts, sexual trauma, and self-harm in Camille’s memories enhance the tone of the novel rather than fabricating something that wasn’t in the original product or displaying potentially hardcore scenes for shock value. However, its finale left much more to be desired.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Granted, outside of the Calhoun Day episode where citizens reenact the Confederate side of the Civil War and how Camille discovers how Marian truly died, the adaptation is fairly faithful to the novel. The killer is completely believable even if one never read the novel prior to watching the series but more time should have been spent showing viewers the murders committed by Amma.
By the end of the series, Adora is established as much more than just an emotionally distant, cold, and harsh mother to Camille. Her grip on everyone around her is often very Southern, a crisp vocabulary combined with a soft tone that you’d have to think about whether or not you’ve been insulted. Other times Adora showcases her hidden violence as she tugs on Camille’s hair, exposes Camille’s scarred skin in public, and bites a baby’s face. However the words cut deeper than Camille’s tools of self-harm and carry the tone of the remainder of the series is that Adora loves her daughter Amma and her long dead daughter Marian but has never loved her daughter Camille. Adora’s hatred explains the deep sadness within Camille that lead her to cut various words on her body, but what Adora’s love actually is turns out to be a terrifying thing that murdered Marian and created a monster of her daughter Amma.
Amma appears to be a teenage girl with more than a touch of disturbing behaviors which could be her form of grief after the death of her peers or from attempting to grow out of her mother’s control. Instead, it’s quite the opposite; she’s obsessed with the attention of her mother. Drinking and doing hardcore drugs gets her ill enough for her mother to notice which prompts Adora to shower Amma with attention in the form of remedies. These remedies initially give the impression that Adora wants Amma to recover when instead it makes her sick with the potential of dying. Eventually her mother latches on to Ann and Natalie so much that Amma feels threatened, she alone deserves Adora’s attention so she kills Natalie and Ann.
Once Adora is imprisoned, (after being found guilty for the murder of her daughter Marian), she still craves maternal attention which is transferred to Camille. Once again her rage strikes as she murders a new friend Amma feels may divert Camille’s attention. Pulling out the teeth of her victims is made to be the flooring of her mother’s extravagant dollhouse bedroom. All of this would have been much more satisfying to see in the span of several minutes of the finale than the mere seconds during the credits.
Although the finale isn’t as great as I had hoped, Sharp Objects is a great series overall. The cast brings a dark tale of the scars, traumas, and secrets people create and is worthy of being watched again and again.
Rating: 9 out of 10