Incredibly dark, violent, twisted, and extremely well written, Sharp Objects is a delicious limited series straight out of the HBO stables. Carried by Jean-Marc Vallée's perfect direction and by Amy Adams' riveting performance as the protagonist, Camille, this is the perfect material for some winter binge watching.
"Sharp Objects" opens, as most works from writer and producer Gillian Flynn, in a sleepy midwestern town on the cusp of summer. But the calm is only apparent, as a young girl has disappeared in the midst of peaceful Wind Gap. Amy Adams' character - now a reporter in St. Louis, but with deep ties to that very same place - is asked by her editor to go back to her hometown and 'write a story' about whatever happened to poor Natalie Keene, and to Ann Nash - the first victim of Wind Gap's murderer.
But just like "Gone Girl" and "Dark Places" - two other books by ms. Flynn, who by this point has basically reached Jo Nesbø status in the annals of American crime literature - plot twist abound, and neither Amy's characters nor the murders she has come to investigate are as simple as they seem.
Despite following all tropes of the American crime procedural, Sharp Objects never gets boring, dull or predictable. This is mainly due to the main character - Camille Preaker - which is masterfully played by Adams. Without giving anything away, Camille is one of the most powerful flawed characters in recent movie history; and Adams' method acting really brings her movie counterpart to life.
Camille is deeply troubled and interestingly written; but in the end it's Adams who really steals the shows here: it's hard to believe that this is the same actress playing a quaint linguist or Superman's girlfriend in other, ligher, movies - and yet there she is. Sure, some of Camille's mannerisms are reminiscent of her other works - most notably "The Master" and "Nocturnal Animals", but her character reaches peaks of intensity, anger and sadness that have very few matches in recent cinema history.
The same remark can be made about ms. Flynn's writing: some of Sharp Objects' plot devices are lifted from the writer's other works; and sure, the atmosphere and side characters in the book and series are extremely similar to the other small town pettyfoggers who also appear in Flynn's later ouvre. And yet, Sharp Objects is witty, elaborate and suspenceful enough that it's quite hard to really care about the potential repetition. After all, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke - why fix it?
No such complaint, on the other hand, can be levied towards the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who has shown time and time again - most notably in "Demolition" and "Dallas Buyers' Club" that movies can be emotionally charged without being corny, and brilliantly directed even if shot on a smaller scale. Sharp Objects is probably Vallée's greatest achievement so far, and features a number of breathtaking sequences and montages shot on short focal lengths and natural lighting that really make us, the audience, feel like we're there in Wind Gap, sharing the scene with the brilliant cast.
In the end, it's quite hard to place the finger on what really makes "Sharp Objects" so good. It's not the way it's written, or its format - especially since it deviates from the crime drama mold quite soon, and delves into a more contemplative - maybe even a bit meandering - slow dive into the human psyche. It's not because of its plot twists or engaging "A-ha" moments, since you'll probably figure out who did it halfway through, and be pretty sure of it at least until the credits roll. And Amy Adams' and Patricia Clarke's performance - as well as the rest of the cast - are consistently great; but that's to be expected from an HBO production anyways.
So maybe what makes "Sharp Objects" great is the feeling that it could be taking place here, and it could be about us. Just like the rest of Flynn's stories, if you strip the characters of their heavy midwestern accent, Wal-Mart t-shirts and Chevrolet cars, de te fabula narratur - this story is about you.
So as the nights get longer, and darker, maybe you should sit in front of the TV and give Sharp Objects a chance - the raw and beautifully violent themes might not be to everyone's liking, but Vallée's masterful direction and the cast's riveting performance will definitely keep you glued until the very last episode.
Just make sure your door is locked - you never know who might be waiting for you outside.
If you liked this, also watch: "Gone Girl", "Dark Places", "Nocturnal Animals"
If you have a crush on Amy Adams, also watch: "The Master", "Arrival", "Doubt", "The Fighter"