HBO'S SHARP OBJECTS: GRADE C-
Updated: Aug 19, 2018
I really wanted to like this since it was based on a thriller written by a woman and the show-runner's a woman, but a male director seems to have hijacked the show...
Oh my God. This entire show is Amy Adams driving around in a car. And I mean, the entire show.
Every. Single. Episode.
Adams' morose, drunk reporter literally tools around her small hometown of Wind Gap in her beat-up Volvo looking at absolutely nothing and seeing absolutely no one, while sipping an Evian bottle full of vodka, until she decides to pull into the town's seedy bar, have some more drinks and drop some more exposition before getting BACK into her car and driving around some more.
The Plot, Such as It Is
Ostensibly, the show is about Adams' journalist character, Camille, who's escaped the clutches of her clingy mother, the town doyenne (an always excellent Patricia Clarkson), but not without some literal scars. When a teen girl is murdered in town, her big city editor sends a reluctant Camille back to get the scoop. But it's all so upsetting, 'cause her mom's so mean to her for no apparent reason, and every time Camille asks anybody any questions about anything (which she continually reminds us, is her JOB), Mom comes barging in, telling her to stop riling things up. But instead of standing up to her, Camille just slinks away to drive around and drink some more.
Meanwhile, her parents (her stepdad does nothing but listen to music to escape these crazies) have had another daughter, a wild child who somehow gets away with being both an out-of-control teenager and her mother's perfect little Stepford Child. I'm telling you, the whole thing is not only off-the-charts weird, but it's also difficult to follow. And the murder plot gets completely lost. The setting definitely seems more Southern Gothic than Midwestern seedy, and to top it all off, Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) is totally miscast as a Kansas City detective straight out of Brooklyn.
We're Over the Whole Artsy Flashback Thing
None of this helped by the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who was so lauded for his work on HBO's Big Little Lies. But see, now we're onto his tricks, and they're not all that interesting the second time around. The guy obviously has a thing for women driving aimlessly around -- remember the opening of that series? Big Little Lies had not one, but THREE women tooling around in picturesque settings.
Plus, Sharp Objects is awash in completely nonsensical flashbacks -- the characters are impossible to identify (wait, is that Camille or the sister?) -- not to mention hallucinations (the ol' "character showing up in the road while you're driving drunk" deal.)
Don't Try to Stretch a Short Book Into Eight Episodes
Gillian Flynn, the author who also penned the phenomenon Gone Girl, also wrote the murder mystery this HBO limited series is based on. Showrunner Marti Noxon, whose writing and directing credits include Dietland and To the Bone, has made a living off creating stories around girls and women who've been damaged by society and have done damage to themselves.
So I was not surprised to read in Vulture that Noxon apparently had screaming matches with Vallée over his reluctance to actually shoot the script as written, with actual dialogue. (Imagine that!) That kind of artsy crap is fine in film, but TV is all about the words and the story. That's why the writer/showrunner in TV is the auteur, while in France, it's the director. After his work on Wild and Big Little Lies, Vallee has some pull, but from that article and the final product, it seems to me he hijacked the project.
I desperately wish that Noxon had won more of these battles. Don't get me wrong, I like a weird, meandering series every once in awhile (Twin Peaks, looking at you). But sorry to say, this time, I'm done going along for the ride.
Femme Critic Score:
Female Writer/Producers: 4 women (including show-runner and author), 3 men
Female Directors: Zilch
Female Cast: 3 women, 0 P.O.C.
Passes the Bechdel Test? Yes