Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams: My Take on the Series

Poster for Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams based on the book by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams


Are you watching Sharp Objects Sunday nights on HBO? I rewatched Episode One before tuning in to the second episode, a practice I think I'll continue throughout viewing the entire series. While it’s a mystery—Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) returns home to Wind Gap to report on the murder of two local girls to her big-city newspaper—it’s her character, what lurks beneath the surface to create the woman we see, that is the real mystery. 


Amy Adams stars as heavy drinking and cutting Camille Preaker in Sharp Objects on HBO

Amy Adams wears baggy grey sweater and black leggings in Sharp Objects


She’s a drinker and instead of packing clothes for her trip—she wears the same shapeless dark grey sweater and black jean leggings every day—she loads her bag with an assortment of vodka bottles, cigarettes, and candy. She drinks in the car, having poured the alcohol into water bottles. She drinks in the bathtub, aligning the empties on the edge of the tub, lining up the caps in an orderly row. All part of her ritual drinking. And of course, she drinks in her local bar. The only time she doesn’t drink is when an old family friend (Elizabeth Perkins) offers her a spiked sweet tea. No, Camille replies with a straight face, because she’s on duty. Which, we know, is utter nonsense. 


Elizabeth Perkins in Sharp Objects


Slowly, not until the very end of the first episode, we see it’s not just the drinking. Camille is also a cutter, carving words into her skin. Self-harming is not an altogether uncommon act for adolescents, struggling with all the stress that coming-of-age brings. Psychology Today puts the figure at somewhere between 13 and 23% of all teenagers. The practice is considerednon-suicidal self-injury’’ and is defined as the deliberate, self-inflicted destruction of body tissue, but it’s important to understand that cutters aren’t trying to kill themselves. In fact, they often inflict the self-harm in order to feel alive rather than numb. Quite a contradictory set of feelings with Camille drinking to a point where she feels numb enough to handle the pain of cutting, pricking herself with paperclips and needles. Her wounds are deep, the vanish scratched into her skin, a harsh directive she’s given to herself based on her mother’s own dismissive attitude towards her. 


Image from HBO's Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson who is rarely seen without a drink in her hand

Patricia Clarkson as Adora is rarely seen without a drink in her hand


We can see that in Camille’s house wearing your emotions on your sleeve was not allowed. Even now Camille’s mother, the chilly, Amaretto Sours drinking Adora (Patricia Clarkson) can’t bear any kind of emotional outburst. Adora too, exhibits a form of self-harm, constantly plucking at her own eyelashes. 



Still from Sharp Objects on HBO featuring Chris Messina and Amy Adams

Chris Messina, the detective on the case, has no compunction about drinking on the job 


It’s a complicated web the show weaves, fascinating to watch Camille navigate a world where she encounters a world of fellow heavy drinkers, if not outright alcoholics, at every turn. In addition to her mother, rarely without a drink in her hand: her managing editor at the newspaper (Miguel Sandoval) hides his own bottle away in a credenza away from his wife’s prying eyes, the detective working on the case (Chris Messina) enables her drinking with his own, an old family friend (Elizabeth Perkins) is half woozy with booze in every scene she appears in, her young stepsister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) has already started pilfering alcohol from the local quick-stop. 

Image of Amy Adams breaking down in Sharp Objects, based on the book by Gillian Flynn

Camille (Amy Adams) breaks down in Sharp Objects


This is not a character to emulate, to admire and yet we like her. She has our sympathies along with our disapproval. Driving drunk, erasing memories, trying to bury the past—which can’t help but come back to bite you—and blurring the present are not the approved methods for getting by in life. It’s not the way the vast majority of us live our lives so we watch, mesmerized at this walking train wreck, hoping against hope that like fellow thriller writer Paula Hawkin’s alcoholic Girl on the Train, Camille gets her drinking problem under control, the crime solved and her demons in check. All while creating a dialogue about the harm self-harming can do.




This is my summer binge, delicious and haunting. Are you watching?

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