HBO’s Sharp Objects
Episode 2: “Dirt”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Gillian Flynn
* For a recap & review of Episode 1, “Dirt” – click here
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, “Fix” – click here
Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is having a hard time back home, particularly within the walls of the house she used to call home. All those memories. The spectre of her dead sister lingering. Whatever psychological horrors – and visceral ones – she experienced in Wind Gap are almost bottled up all right there in that room with her. She has to juggle her alcoholism, her job, and her family life. Now, she’s dealing with the aftermath of young Natalie being found in that alley.
Certain residents subscribe to “magical thinking,” in that their leaving things at a memorial in the alleyway, or any memorial for that matter, is a way of warding off “any future evil.” Such is the South, and any other area with a lot of rural space, where folklore is weaved into the very fabric of life itself.
At home, Camille’s seeing more of why she can’t stand being there. Her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), is an elite Missourian— a state nearly 84% white, epitomised in Adora’s own home where the black maid does everything for her, as if an extension of herself. She’s the kind of woman who micromanages the lives of her family. Not just that, she’s wilfully blind to the world. Such is the world of wealth and white privilege.
Everybody goes to church for the funeral. This is a town of people who know one another, everybody’s connected. We see that Adora is a controller, everywhere she goes, chastising Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) for not using her “indoor voice.” She pulls her daughter’s pen away while she’s trying to do her job as a journalist. Chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven) watches from the back. Camille looks around at the crowd, all the various faces, some of whom she recognises— some friendlier than others. Overall, it’s a collective exercise in grief. The family are devastated, naturally, and they want justice for her murder. But mostly it isn’t rage, only a deep, dark sadness. All the while Camille’s remembering the death of her own sister, seeing her mother in mourning, and how Adora treated her like she was barely even there.
After too much mothering Camille leaves the funeral. Not before her shirt tears and mom gets a look at the remnants of her daughter’s self harm rituals. Camille heads off, running into her half sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) and her friends at the store who are sneaking off with booze and other things. She warns the young woman to be careful. Someone out there’s “killing little girls.”
Soundtrack Note: the sound playing while Camille’s about to trace over a few of those cut lines in her arm is “Black Screen” by LCD Soundsystem. Killer tune, though long.
At a wake following the funeral, Camille witnesses a man get tossed from the house by angry men. She heads inside where lots of people from Wind Gap are chatting, reminiscing, eating. The typical post-funeral scene of any little town. Except Camille hears the whispers about her. She also hears the tough, racist talk of the men looking for vengeance after what’s happened in their hometown. Then she runs into women she knew once upon a time, the ladies still treating her as they did when they were girls, unable to let go of the past, of preconceptions, of gossip and lies. Typical, again, of small town life. I recognise it from my own upbringing. At least Camille’s got Jackie, despite her being equally stricken with alcoholism.
Not doing herself any favours, Camille wanders into the bedroom of Natalie, looking at all the young girl’s things left sitting there like a ruin. She also finds a tarantula in a jar, which she lets out in the garden. There she runs into the grieving father, talking a little. Back inside, upstairs, she runs into her mother, constantly judging her actions.
“My demons are not remotely tackled, they’re just mildly concussed.”
Elsewhere, Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) is torturing himself over the case, trying to figure out anything he can to get a break in the case. He talks to the medical examiner at the morgue about pulling teeth, considering this is part of the whole MO of the killer targeting Wind Gap’s girls. Baby teeth are easier to pull. Not surprising, though no less macabre. To get a feel for it, Dt. Willis buys a pig’s head and tries pulling the teeth from it himself. It ain’t easy, either.
Out on the town, Camille looks for info. She stumbles onto kids out by themselves, asking questions about Natalie. One kid tells her about a kid called James Capisi (Dylan Schombing), who saw a “woman in white” take the girl away. After this event, James supposedly got “weird.” Camille goes to seek the boy out at his house not far from the park. James swears what he saw was real.
Camille goes to see Chief Vickery about the kid. He’s very reluctant to believe anything James has to say, given he’s from a lower class family, and he tells tall tales. Oh so similar to many areas, where sometimes even the actual truth gets discounted because the authorities in question don’t like from where it’s coming.
A little later, she winds up at a bar, where there are familiar locals spouting a little casual nastiness at her, surely linked to the past, and of course there’s Dt. Willis drinking+working. We hear more about the woman in white, a local legend going back as far as Camille and her friends, likely even further.
“If somebody says bless your heart what they really mean is fuck you”
The relationship between Camille and her mother is constantly deteriorating. Adora’s continually bringing everything back to bear on her daughter. She saw parallels between Natalie and her daughter, two “wild and filthy” girls always out running around in the trees or doing who knows what. It’s frustrating to watch that woman keep trying to run Camille’s life, or at least lord over it. Simultaneously, Camille is an utter wreck of alcoholism and self harm, plagued by brutal memories of misogyny and neglect and all sorts of other terror.
Best part about Sharp Objects is the gradual storytelling, we’re not being dumped on with every last little bit of history. Those memories of Camille’s are coming to us in a surreal whoosh of the past, seeping into the frame just like the real memories we remember over the course of our lives, at least the painful ones, anyway.
“Fix” is next time.