Content Warning: This article discusses rape and self-harm.
As students, we strive to be independent. Our futures are now ours to mold; we are finally in complete control of our lives. Nevertheless, our pasts will always remain with us. We love going home because it allows us the chance not only to reconnect with family and friends, but also to revisit the memories and experiences that helped shape us. Hometowns are often the physical manifestation of the joy and happiness of our youth. Unfortunately for Camille Preaker, however, the town of Wind Gap, Mo. represents nothing more than deception and heartbreak.
Camille, hauntingly portrayed by Amy Adams, is the protagonist of “Sharp Objects” (2018-), an HBO miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”). The show follows Camille, a journalist, as she returns home to report on the investigation surrounding the recent murders of two young girls. Perpetually tortured by flashbacks to her childhood, from the despicable (being raped in the woods) to the despairing (her sister’s untimely death), Camille faces a wide variety of emotional problems, struggling with alcoholism and self-harm. In order to stave off her inner demons, Camille cuts words into her skin; her body is a page. While cutting keeps Camille grounded in the present, it also makes her painfully self-conscious. However, her greatest misfortune is her loneliness. No one except her editor understands her. If only she could form one meaningful connection, her life could turn around for the better.
Unfortunately, her family does not offer much help. Patricia Clarkson delivers a brilliant performance as Adora, Camille’s socialite mother. While in public, Adora radiates Southern beauty and grace, yet her private self borders on sinister, never hesitating to bombard Camille with verbal abuse. No character better demonstrates this Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of public and private life than Amma, Camille’s half-sister, played by rising star Eliza Scanlen. While at home, Amma conforms to Adora’s stringent rules of decorum; she spends her nights frolicking in the streets, where she runs around with boys and chases hogs. Every actor in “Sharp Objects” embodies a double-faceted character, layered like nesting dolls. However, as Camille’s reporting dives deeper, we see these facades begin to crack.
Much of “Sharp Objects” is told through the soundtrack. Camille escapes reality by driving alone with an eclectic assortment of music playing. The audience only hears snippets of the songs, similarly to how we only see fragments of Camille’s past. Like her memories, her songs are haphazardly interlaced to form a quilt of her youth — one that is torn and spattered with blood. During one moment of extreme tension, Camille throws her phone out the car window, symbolizing the extent to which Wind Gap strips her of her personal identity. Music is also a form of nostalgia. Camille’s stepfather (Matt Czerny) listens to old records, and Civil War-era music is played at a town festival celebrating the Confederate army.
Southern nostalgia is at the heart of “Sharp Objects.” The costumes and set pieces, especially during the festival scene, are reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind” (1939), as the South is glorified to the point of becoming a character in itself. The natural greens and whites speak of nature and a purity that, contrary to the beliefs of the characters, seems to not actually exist. The landscape shots are hazy and wistful. Yet, many moments are stitched together solely by quick and sudden cuts, as though the duplicity of Wind Gap is piercing enough to shatter time. In a sense, the directing style fits well with the theme of the show, which remains persistent throughout the series: the glory of the South is only a facade that disguises a dark evil.
While “Objects” is admittedly overly edgy at times, it sharply illuminates the intrinsic difference between appearance and reality, leading to an enjoyable eight-episode arc full of twists and turns that will leave you stunned. The finale aired Aug. 26, so go (binge) watch the series now on HBO!