Director Jean-Marc Vallée follows up 2017’s Emmy-winning Big Little Lies with another female-led HBO mystery in the form of Sharp Objects, but that’s where the comparisons end.
For as pretty, lush, and rich as Big Little Lies was, with its fantastical beach homes and upper-class satire, Sharp Objects is dirty, gritty, and less hopeful, even if it’s just as captivating. I’ve often compared Big Little Lies to True Detective for their A-list casts on top of A-list performances, but in terms of tone, Sharp Objects is a more apt comparison to the Nic Pizzolatto series, with Missouri’s Southern Gothic flavor substituting for TD‘s backwoods Louisiana setting. Amy Adams has said in interviews that she was reluctant to do television again (she was last seen on NBC’s The Office and Dr. Vegas on CBS), and it’s no wonder she decided to take on this role. As Camille Preaker, she delivers one of her best performances to date, pushing herself to new limits as an actress.
The 8-episode miniseries Sharp Objects follows St. Louis reporter Camille (in the book, it’s Chicago) who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to cover what could be a serial killer on the loose, with two little girls murdered. But there are two mysteries at play: Who killed these little girls and what is really preventing Camille from moving past the tragedies from her childhood, specifically her overbearing mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson)? This project manages to breed two of the most unlikable characters on television from two of the most likable actresses in movies (Adams and Patricia Clarkson). Like Adams, Clarkson, too, has never been better, with her terrifying charm and lash-pulling, and newcomer Eliza Scanlan who plays Amma, Camille’s half-sister, keeps exceptional pace with these more seasoned actors. It’s also nice to see a Julie & Julia reunion between Adams and Chris Messina, who plays a cop she becomes romantically involved with (who knew their chemistry was this electric in Julie’s kitchen?).
Like a long, hot summer, director Jean-Marc Vallée takes his time with his direction, lingering on scenes to add to the discomfort of returning home. Plus, Valée is the one of the few directors to best capture the human thought process on film, the way past images cut into present moments, like you’re in Camille’s head.
Sharp Objects is the perfect TV obsession to quench your thirst during these Dog Days of Summer (don’t let the similar True Detective Season 2 drop date scare you). While Adams fans would love to see her get an Oscar (she’s a Supporting Actress contender for playing Lynne Cheney in Adam McKay’s upcoming Backseat), they may have to settle for an Emmy in 2019. Or with any luck, both.
HBO’s Sharp Objects premieres Sunday night, July 8, at 9pm ET.