HBO’s Sharp Objects
Episode 1: “Vanish”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Gillian Flynn & Marti Noxon
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, “Dirt” – click here
A young Camille Preaker (Sophia Lillis) and her sister Marian (Lulu Wilson) sneak into a big house out through the trees. They go upstairs, sneaking past a woman in the kitchen. Camille grabs a woman in bed by the hand, she’s about to push a paperclip into her skin. Only it’s her— Camille (Amy Adams) grown up. There are even Abba-Zaba wrappers left on the front, like the girls were only just there. But clearly, the past and the present are, for Camille, quite intertwined.
Nowadays Camille works as a reporter for a newspaper. She considers herself “trash from old money” down South. Her boss Frank (Miguel Sandoval) calls her in to tell her there’s been some murder in her old hometown, Wind Gap, plus there’s a new missing girl. He wants her to go cover it. Only problem is there are skeletons in her closet, many of which reside back home. Doesn’t help she’s recently had some serious psychological troubles dealing with her mental illness.
So, off she goes on the road! We start to see Camille deals with her problems in very unhealthy ways, from eating too much chocolate to drinking too much booze. Her bag is filled with candy bars and little self-serving sized bottles of liquor. She spends her time drinking and slipping between the present and all sorts of painful memories of the past.
“Life is pressure. Grow up.”
Back in her hometown, Camille’s starting to dig in. She gets talking to Chief Vickery (Matt Craven) at the station, and he’s rightfully defensive about her being around, not wanting his town to get a name for murder in the press across America. Meanwhile, Camille is a reporter, and despite not wanting to fuck up Wind Gap she still wants to get into the story. She briefly meets Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) when she goes out to where a search is underway in the woods. Then she runs into an old face, Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins), getting a bit more of the scoop on how things are locally. But the longer she’s home, the more those memories flood back. There’s something desperately painful at the heart of what plagues her mental health.
Later, she goes to see her mother, Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson). She’s welcomed after a long absence. Stepfather Alan (Henry Czerny) is kicking around, and everybody’s drinking, of course, such is Southern culture— similar to my own here in Newfoundland and Labrador, where having a drink is like second nature. This is part of where Camille developed her own alcoholism. Then there’s the fact Adora is an out of sight, out of mind-type, who’d rather not “dwell on” things like murder. Mom’s the definition of white privilege, right down to the black maid she employs in her big plantation-style house.
After spending a little time there, Camille can’t even handle those four walls, as the memories are far too present, like living ghosts. This sends her out to the bar. She sees John Keene (Taylor John Smith), brother of Natalie— the missing girl. She also runs into Dt. Willis again, a playfully antagonistic relationship developing between them. They’re similar, seeing as how he’s not from Wind Gap, and she hasn’t been from there in ages. Camille’s constantly working as a reporter, no matter if she’s out tying one on, too.
There’s more antagonism, between Adora and Camille. Mom doesn’t like her daughter back home digging into “morbid questions” and staying out at the bars all night. Adora’s a bourgeois woman, she doesn’t like her image tarnished, especially not by her own daughters. She’s basically a woman who likes avoiding conflict, at all costs, even if those costs are terrible.
Camille goes to speak with the father Ann Nash, the girl who was murdered a year prior in Wind Gap, Bob Nash (Will Chase). He’s taken it all hard, like anyone would, and his life hasn’t gotten back on track since the death of his girl, nor will it ever really. Things around the Nash house aren’t well. Bob’s a questionable guy— angry, homophobic, strict. He gives the reporter some bad vibes, as well.
“When you’re here, everything you do comes back on me.”
A shocking scene develops in town when a body’s found in an alleyway: none other than Natalie. Camille is there in the aftermath, as are some of the kids from town, including Natalie’s brother. This doesn’t bode well for ANYBODY’S mental health, particularly Camille and John.
Camille’s continually navigating the waters between family, home, and her profession as a reporter seeking the truth. Her mother doesn’t like that she’s been looking into things, talking to Mr. Nash and dredging up all the hurtful memories. She finally sees her half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), when she gets back home. At least officially. Amma likes to sneak out from underneath her mother and the ideal of the Southern belle she’s forced into being. We hear more about Marian, the other sister, who died long ago. So many secrets in that house bottled up, hidden, buried. The new deaths are bringing back the old death and trauma.
The old room belonging to Marian is “like a museum” preserved in time. Being inside it takes Camille back to the funeral of her sister, where she went ballistic seeing Marian in her small coffin, dressed up with lipstick and looking doll-like. Memories only serve to exacerbate Camille’s drinking, which, in turn, exacerbates her mental illness. A vicious cycle many of us known too well.
WOW. I expected Sharp Objects to be good, I loved the book. But I didn’t expect such a strong opening. I’ve been a fan of Amy Adams for a long while, yet she continues surprising me with her range. Can’t wait for more. “Dirt” is next week.