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‘Sharp Objects’ Brings Amy Adams to the Dark Side
July 10, 2018  | By David Hinckley

Last time Amy Adams played a character who returned to her small-town home to deal with parental issues, the result was a really nice and rather sweet movie called Trouble With the Curve

Adams (top) doesn’t have it so easy playing Camille Preaker in Sharp Objects, the eight-episode miniseries that premiered Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. 

Adams herself is just as good in this story, which comes as no surprise to those of us who would follow her anywhere. 

It’s also true upfront that the odyssey of a small-town girl who escaped to the big city and now must return home to confront some of the reasons she wanted to leave is not a novel premise for TV drama. 

In this case, Camille has specifically returned to Wind Gap, MO, a town of 2,000 that defiantly calls itself a city. The fact its only known industry is hog butchering does not prevent Wind Gap from having a well-defined upper crust society, whose membership includes Camille’s mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson, right). 

Unlike in a thousand Hallmark movies, we somehow doubt that Camille will suddenly realize how good she once had it, work things out with Mom, meet the handsome man of her dreams and live happily ever after. 

Okay, she does meet a handsome man. He’s Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) and he’s an out-of-towner who came to Wind Gap for the same reason as Camille: A young girl is missing and feared murdered, which would make her the second young girl killed in Wind Gap.

Willis understandably has a complex relationship with the local sheriff, Vickery (Matt Craven), and that’s also true with Camille, for entirely different reasons.  

Camille is a newspaper reporter, sent by her editor at the St. Louis Chronicle

He figures that as a native she’ll have the inside track on local color if this turns out to be a serial killer at work. He also bluntly suggests this might be the kind of intense distraction she needs, since we gradually learn that Camille was recently sprung from a psychiatric hospital where she spent time because she was, among other things, cutting herself.

From what we can see at first, she has replaced cutting with drinking. Her road trip provisions include a sack of candy bars and airline-size containers of every known liquor. Had the name Sharp Objects been taken, this series could have been titled Small Bottles

In any case, if Camille has more serious problems than the average small town girl who returns home, she still faces the same challenge: dealing with the unfinished business of her childhood and her life. 

Camille does this at a deliberate pace – in part because we get her Wind Gap backstory one short flashback at a time, with Sophia Lillis turning in a strong performance as the young Camille. 

While Mommy issues are the most prominent wall Camille must scale, she also inevitably runs into other hometown mini-dramas.  

Amma (Eliza Scanlen, right), the younger half-sister Camille never really knew, still lives at home and becomes a good source of frank intel. While Adora always said Camille was the incorrigible child, for instance, Amma says she too is incorrigible. Except Mom doesn’t know it. 

Sharp Objects is not an action drama, despite the murder mystery and our mounting realization that what’s happening here requires more than a mother/daughter reconciliation. The disturbing stuff emerges slowly, and so, therefore, does our real interest, which is a better understanding of Camille. 

Adams makes us keep wanting to see the next card turned over, and not only because damaged people can make for good drama. Camille’s roots trip turns Wind Gap into an equally intriguing character, contemporary kin to the small Texas town in The Last Picture Show

Sharp Objects makes us want to see both the town and its child survive, an outcome that never feels like a given. 

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