What Is and What Should Never Be: Sharp Objects, ‘Vanish’

***Spoiler Warning:  Spoilers for Sharp Objects Season 1, Episode 1 follow. Spoilers***

Meandering through her life like a ghost of the spirited teenager she used to be, Camille Preaker is caught in an endless loop of memories that swing wildly between daring, happy childhood ventures, and crushing tragedy that simply won’t allow release. In her emotional equivalent of self-flagellation, this utterly broken person cannot allow herself even a whisper of forgiveness for being unable to save her sister from the yet to be revealed malady that leads to young Marian’s fate.

As is Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl, Dark Places) by now well-known modus operandi, Sharp Objects is a twisty tale of murder and mangled psyches that one could hardly call enjoyable; nonetheless, it’s a difficult to put down novel. Even with the announcement of a stellar cast and director Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies), I was hesitant about watching HBO’s adaptation — yes, the book is that disturbing. Still, with Vallée riding shotgun to Amy Adams’ stellar-from-the-outset performance, perfectly shot flashback sequences of the young sisters — Sophia Lillis, as the teenaged Camille, electrifies her every scene — and Patricia Clarkson’s perfect rendition of matriarch, Adora Crellin, “Vanish” elevates Flynn’s material in an unexpected way.

Punctuated by an incredible soundtrack that runs the gamut from Led Zeppelin to The Acid, languid sequences of Camille’s alcohol and narcotics (candy) fueled sleepwalking (driving) through the drudgery of her pained existence take on the hefty load of communicating her past to present in an immersive, enveloping manner that isn’t (as I sometimes found the book) off-putting. Rather, the clever mixing of her assignment to report on a possible serial murder case in her hometown with seamless flashes to her childhood memories, relay Camille’s story without exposition and with respect for the audience to put together the pieces of this broken life.

It’s impossible not to rave about Adams here; her carefully cultivated numbness never veers out of bounds; the youthful playfulness of her younger self still seeps out in sarcastic banter with out-of-towner, Detective Willis (Chris Messina), in choice (apologetic) deference to mother, and with sly insolence toward her fatherly boss (Miguel Sandoval). Her haunted childself and all those bottles she hauls around could easily swing the character into maudlin but in Adams’ nuanced hands, humor breaks the dark moments; a thoughtful softness punctuates what could come off as total emptiness. There is something still alive behind Camille’s self-imposed, walking dead routine and in her subtleties, we can see that will to truly live again … someday.

From the glorious beginning of sisters open-armed skating, to the specter of Preaker’s childhood home — in itself, an imposing character — and from that creepy cabin that still fuels Camille’s fevered masturbation, to wiping lipstick off her sister’s mouth, to the horrible discovery of a second body, Sharp Objects‘ opening hour proves irresistible. I, and so should you, surrender to the darkness.

Songs This Hour:

Dance and Angela Film Version Franz Waxman

I Can’t Quit You Baby, Led Zeppelin

Small Town Heroes, Hurray for the Riff Raff

Ring of Fire, Eric Burdon & the Animals

What Is and What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin

Tumbling Lights, The Acid

Ghost, The Acid

Dietro Casa, Ludovico Einaudi

Great Lines:

Camille to Curry about Wind Gap:  “Bottom of Missouri … You got your old money and your trash. [Which one are you?] Trash, from old money.”

Curry to Camille:  “People give a shit when you give a shit.

Life is pressure. Grow up.

I need facts and color.”

Camille to Curry:  “Fine, I will write you a fucking rainbow.

I’m going out to join a search party now, hopefully we’ll turn up a dead little girl.”

Adora to Camille:  “I’ll just pretend you’re on summer break.”

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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