HBO is back with another miniseries from Jean-Marc Vallée – Sharp Objects – based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. Following the incredible success of his last series, Big Little Lies, a lot is expected of Sharp Objects which premiered on Sunday night. And so far, with the first episode, “Vanish,” the Canadian director largely succeeds.

Anchoring proceedings is multiple Academy Award nominee Amy Adams, playing the show’s protagonist Camille Preaker. Camille is a woman running from a past that she can’t quite escape. A St. Louis, Missouri journalist, Camille is sent on assignment back to Wind Gap, the small town where she grew up, to investigate and write about the disappearance of a young girl, Natalie Keene, and the murder of another a year earlier, Ann Nash.

sharp hbo

Coming home also means Camille must contend with the darkness in her past. Top of that list, is the death of her younger sister Marian. In flashbacks, we witness the bond between the two girls as they sneak out of the house together and discover the ruins of the old town.

Camille opens the door to her sister’s room when she returns to her childhood home (“I’m trash from old money”). Frozen in time, the room is exactly as it was when Marian died, and the four walls also bring haunting memories flashing back, one in which Camille frantically wipes the lipstick off her sister’s face as she lays in a coffin. What killed Marian is yet to be revealed, but the damage to Camille is clearly lasting and alcohol is one way she dampens the pain – in the car, in the bath, anywhere she can. She also cuts. The last scene shows Camille soaking in a warm bath with the word ‘Vanish’ etched into her arm.

Wind Gap has remained the same, and so has Camille’s mother, Adora Crellin, played brilliantly by Patricia Clarkson. Adora is a woman of leisure, aloof as she floats around the mansion, oblivious to Camille’s discomfort. Since losing Marian, Adora has another daughter to fuss over, Amma, Camille’s half-siter, a crafty teenager who knows how to play the good girl at home while puffing on cigarettes and taking liberties outside the confines of the family compound. The dysfunction between Camille and Adora is palpable, with Camille almost withering in her mother’s domineering presence – a little girl all over again.

Rounding out the cast of characters are Elizabeth Perkins as Jackie – the neighborhood gossip who drinks her fair share, and Chris Messina as Richard Willis – a wary, out-of-town detective brought in to work on the Natalie Keene case. Richard and Camille bump heads at their first, both strong-willed types, but a romantic connection seems in the cards.

If upbeat is what you are after, Sharp Objects is not the show for you, with the tone decidedly bleak, bending towards darkness. However, if you are a fan of smartly written slow-burners, you’ll likely buy into this series, with Adams’ nuanced and haunting performance well worth tuning in for.


A r o u n d   t h e   W e b