Lots of quality behind and in front of the camera, as far as this 8-part adaptation of Sharp Objects was concerned.
Based on Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s debut novel of the same name, the mini-series was created by Marti Noxon, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies) and starred Amy Adams (who also served as executive producer) and promised much.
The story revolved around Camille Preaker (Adams) – a troubled investigative journalist returning to her home town, Wind Gap, to report on the grisly murders of two teenaged girls.
In the course of doing so, Preaker has to confront her demons – and come to terms with her psychotic mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and her equally disturbed teenaged half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen).
While ostensibly a crime drama, Sharp Objects is really a harrowing study into the female psyche as the narrative focuses on Camille’s dark secrets – trauma over the loss of her other half-sister Marianne, a gang rape, self-harm (she cut words into her body) and alcoholism.
All this is revealed in a slow burn of flashbacks as Camille – with young Camille played by the wonderful Sophia Lillis (from It) – continues to make self-destructive choices based on her horrific past whilst negotiating the emotional traps laid by Adora and Amma.
The men in Sharp Objects are all rather hapless beings – whether it be Police Chief Vickery (Matt Craven) or Adora’s husband Alan (Henry Czerny), both under the thrall of Adora OR Detective Willis (Chris Messina) or John Keene (Taylor John Smith), both helplessly drawn to Camille.
However, from quite early on, it was clear that there was something very wrong about Amma : a mummy’s girl with a terrifying darkness behind her eyes. Brought to life magnificently by Scanlen, it was not difficult to imagine that somehow Amma was involved in the murders.
In the seventh episode, Camille figures out the truth about her mother – she suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental illness that causes a mother to either make up fake symptoms or cause real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick.
Thus, Adora had poisoned Marianna all those years ago and shunned Camille for not allowing Adora to do the same to her. Camille also believes that Adora is responsible for the current murders.
However, the final episode turned out to be hugely anti-climatic after the excellent work of the previous seven. After allowing Adora to poison her, Camille is rescued by her editor Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) alerting the Wind Gap police to the situation.
Adora is arrested, tried and convicted for the murders of her daughter Marianne and the two Wind Gap girls. But it all does not sit quite right until the ‘twist’ at the end, when Camille discovers something that implicates Amma in the murders.
The series ends abruptly with Amma’s “Don’t tell mama” as viewers are left to ponder what actually happened. All rather dissatisfactory.
That is, until you realise that there is a mid-credits flashback scene clearing showing Amma committing the murders!
Why the decision to present such a critical plot point in such a mysterious fashion? Surely, that revelation could have been shown during the story proper? Truly mystifying.
In the final analysis, the weak finale notwithstanding, Sharp Objects has been a success and notable for its strong non-linear storytelling and equally strong performances from Adams, Clarkson and especially the 19 year-old Scanlen.
Now to re-watch again!
… still there’s more …