Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sharp Objects 1x01 Vanish

By Sati. Tuesday, July 10, 2018 ,

(spoiler-free!)

Sharp Objects is my favorite book by Gillian Flynn. I read all of her published novels while awaiting the movie adaptation of Gone Girl four years ago and this novel was by far the best read out of the things she has written. Flynn is extremely gifted when it comes to creating complex, dark female characters, not just the protagonists but the supporting women in her novels too. It's such a unique thing when for years it was only the men who had the right to be damaged and fight their demons and when women were expected to be perfect and pristine.

The story follows beautiful, smart and very damaged Camille Preaker (Amy Adams). Camille comes from a small town -Wind Gap in Missouri. She left the town eight years ago but now her editor sends her back there to write a story. A year ago a corpse of a young girl was found and now another girl is missing. Camille reluctantly agrees to take the assignment and goes back and as she does, so do the demons she has been battling her entire life.

The first episode includes Camille's arrival to Wind Gap and investigation of the case. People there are welcoming of her, like the old friend of her mother's (Elizabeth Perkins) and the barkeeper who remembers her. Some are curious, like detective Richard Willis (Chirs Messina) and Camille's step sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen). But mostly people are suspicious and don't want Camille there, asking questions and snooping around. Then there's Camille's strange mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) who reacts to Camille in hostile, passive aggressive and at other times weirdly detached ways.

Sharp Objects the novel continuously jumps between the past and the present as Camille narrates the story and experiences glimpses of memories. This is the perfect fit for the show's creator Jean-Marc Vallée who often uses flashbacks in his works. And it works so well here - the transitions between what happened and what is happening are so smooth and interestingly portrayed and what helps is the wonderful casting of It's Sophia Lillis, who bears striking resemblance to Amy Adams, as young Camille.

While I do worry some of the twists will be too easy to spot in TV series - specifically the true nature of one of the characters - the atmosphere is just wonderful. The series is beautifully shot and the music selection is outstanding. We see the glimpses of Camille's past - her being young and finding a shed with pornographic images on the walls, her playing with her younger sister Marian and finally her lashing out during her sister's funeral. The ghost of Marian is always present in Camille's childhood house and in Camille's memory. But we also see different, strange flashes of the events the series haven't shown us in entirety yet.

The book is quite short yet it was adapted into 8 hour long series. But thanks to the technique of showing the audiences glimpses of the scenes we will see in the future there's plenty to fill the episodes with. It also helps the creators and Adams create the difficult character of Camille - as we see so many sides to her and we also suspect something horrible and violent happened in her past. But as Gone Girl shown us, sometimes what damages the women the most are the expectations of others.
The fact that Camille is an alcoholic was so well shown in the first episode alone. She has just one drink of choice, she passes out in her car and clearly it's not the first time it happened, she keeps drinking every day. But at the same time she is capable, smart and quick-witted. You expect her to fail because of her addiction but you end up being surprised by just how resourceful she is, in spite of what she is doing to herself.

We already saw so much charm in Camille - her being polite to homeless man crossing the street, her being sharp and delightful in her conversation with Willis, her being polite to everyone around her. We instantly warm up to her. And we wonder what happened to her. Throughout the first episode it's curious that in summer Camille is wearing long sleeves at all times. And at the end the audience is being given the reason why - her entire body is covered in scars, but not regular scars - it's words carved into her skin. The most recent word is "vanish" (each episode is titled after one of the words on Camille's body).
It's interesting for me, having read the book, to see the assumptions people make about this. Is it something someone did to Camille? Did she do it herself? The explanation for the scars is quite interesting in the book but it's only given a bit than more than a page. We already didn't get one interesting detail from the book (spoiler, highlight to read - Camille writing words on herself with pen) but instead we got the words appearing here and there in the frame - "girl" on a painting in Amma's dollhouse which then disappears, "wrong" displayed on Camille's car radio, "dirt" written in dust on the car hood.

I was never a big fan of Adams' acting which almost always comes off as dull and lifeless to me, but she really surprised me here. Ironic that playing a character that intoxicates herself all the time to feel less, Adams is actually full of emotions. She is completely believable both as distraught woman who lost her sister and as a charming reporter seeking the truth. The supporting cast is also excellent, the standout being, unsurprisingly, Clarkson as Adora.
The first episode concludes with the gruesome discovery of the second girl, no longer missing, now dead. As Camille comes home she finally meets Amma, her step-sister who she saw around the town, now pretending to be innocent in front of their mother. Amma tells Camille they are both very alike and mentions the deceased Marian. Camille enters her room, remembers the funeral during which she was furiously wiping off lipstick off her dead sister's lips and then we see her disrobe and take a bath, having seen the full display of her horrific scars.

It's certainly a great way to hook people who don't know the book. I see a lot of comparisons to True Detective season 1 when it comes to the show atmosphere and it's certainly correct but what a marvelous shift we are observing here, where instead of male detectives battling their demons we are observing a capable but damaged woman on her quest to find the answers.

Here's the trailer for the next episodes:

14 comments:

  1. I'm glad Adams is working for you here! :)

    True Detective (S1) is a great comparison to the feel of this. Damn it, now I'll probably rewatch that instead of watching the 5 shows I have saved in my Netflix queue.

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    1. Yeah I'm really surprised :D

      I am actually about to rewatch season 2 :)

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  2. Welp, I'm in. We were looking for something to watch last night...and this sounds fantastic.

    And steady praise of an Adams performance? *rubs eyes* Am I on the right site?

    Oh, and I'm totally with Brittani on rewatching True Detective S1. Well, maybe not the whole season. Maybe just...a certain episode. Again.

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    1. I know, I'm shocked she pulled it off! Netflix is adding Arrival soon so if I ever have trouble falling asleep....:D

      Man, get a grip! :D

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    2. Interesting choice of words....

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    3. Why did we dirty up comment section on a sole not pervy post here?

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  3. oh this is on netflix, need to check it out - really enjoyed true detective's first season. thanks for the spoiler-free intro :)

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    1. On Netflix? HBO's shows are on Netflix in some places? You guys are lucky :P

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  4. Just watched the first episode, and I'm hooked. Totally agree with everything you've said, and Amy Adams is fantastic. The whole funeral scene really freaked me out...I get why her character didn't want to go home...jesus.

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    1. Yeah that is one messed up household. Flynn is so good at writing dysfunctional families

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  5. I watched the first episode on Sunday and I loved it and Adams is fantastic (I always like her though).

    I haven't read the novel (but I'm planning on reading it) so I didn't know the reason why she wore long sleeves all the time and I thought it was because of her addiction as alcoholics often feel cold. I was shocked when I saw the scars.

    The show so far definitely has a True Detective feeling but, honestly, I think this is so much better for the reason you mentioned, there's a strong woman looking for answers instead of men.

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    1. Yeah it must be awesome to be watching the show without knowing the story, they really hide stuff well and do very good scenes revealing Camille's demons and her past. Definitely read the book after the series, though, it's amazing!

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  6. Great review! I'm definitely getting True Detective Season 1 vibes from this, and I dig it. I also agree that Vallée's editing style is servicing this material well, arguably better than anything he's done yet. I can't wait to see how this show evolves.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah it fits so well here, it worked well with BLL too but with how violent Camille's past and thoughts are it really suits this perfectly

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