Gripping dramas are commonplace at HBO, and Sharp Objects is yet another that the premium cable network can add to that very long list. The disturbing series centres around reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), who returns home to the quaint town of Wind Gap, Missouri to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. However, her reluctance to be in Wind Gap is evident from the word go, and Adams delivers an astounding performance as our troubled protagonist.
As Camille revisits her hometown, her past comes back to haunt her — something that is conveyed through a series of brief flashbacks. As protagonists go, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more messed up than Camille. We’re not sure of the full extent of her issues as of yet, and the clever writing keeps us guessing, but there’s little doubt that it stems from her problematic relationship with her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson).
Hot off the success of Big Little Lies, which starred some of Hollywood’s biggest names, HBO clearly didn’t hang about. Thankfully, Sharp Objects delivers on every count and could prove to be every bit as good as Big Little Lies. It’s a slow burn series which, in this case, isn’t a bad thing, as the narrative is strong enough to hold our attention. It very much falls into the same category as True Detective, where the pilot episode is more concerned with introducing viewers to the protagonists as opposed to getting the ball rolling on the storyline. It’s a very tricky formula to get right, and more often than not it doesn’t work, but HBO has yet to fail when using it. In fact, perhaps it’s something that more networks could adopt because too often we’re thrust into a narrative without having had any time to connect with the characters in question. Perhaps if we’d got to know them first, then we’d be more interested in their internal struggles.
In some ways, not an awful happens in the first episode but in another, there’s a lot going on. A lot is implied more so than confirmed, and the subtext running throughout is truly wonderful. You can see that writer Marti Noxon cleverly withholds information from us. The frosty relationship between Camille and her mother is an example of this. We’re drip-fed information about their past, which keeps us hanging on. However, the strong writing means that the withholding of information never comes off as contrived — we’re learning what we need to when we need to. No sooner, no later.
While Camille is there to investigate for her job, there’s no doubt that this little trip down memory lane will bring up past struggles for her, and we’ll more than likely get the opportunity to see what led to her being so troubled today.
Much like previous HBO series of a similar nature, Sharp Objects’ appearance is one of its finest qualities. It’s beautiful to look at, and the backdrops are lovely. Additionally, the opening shots of Wind Gap help intensify the oppressive nature of the town. The cinematography throughout is top notch and Jean-Marc Vallée — who also directed Big Little Lies — does a magnificent job here.
If you’re looking for immediate gratification, then Sharp Objects isn’t for you. If you are, however, interested in an intriguing and mysterious tale of a disturbed reporter then you’re in luck. The eight-part series truly has all the components necessary to become a success. Excellent writing and a wonderful performance from Amy Adams makes this series a must watch. If it manages to maintain as high a standard as the premiere episode, then there’s no reason why Sharp Objects won’t be HBO’s next big hit.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Sharp Objects is simulcast at 2am on Sunday nights or shown in a more regular slot at 9pm on Mondays on Sky Atlantic.