Review: The dark, twisted premiere of HBO’s “Sharp Objects”

The new miniseries is worth tuning into on Sunday nights.

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

Courtesy of IMDb

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

Maddy Folstein

From “Big Little Lies” to “Killing Eve,” television shows are digging into the minds and feelings of complicated women. HBO’s “Sharp Objects” is the latest to follow the trend of examining these difficult figures.

Based on a novel by “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, HBO’s miniseries follows Camille (Amy Adams), a St. Louis reporter sent to investigate a series of murders in her small, Southern hometown, Wind Gap. 

On its surface, Sunday’s premiere mirrors last year’s successful “Big Little Lies.” The pilot includes long, contemplative montages of Amy Adams driving, a gritty soundtrack and a veneer over a seemingly perfect town. 

But this first episode reveals itself to be far darker than most. Camille drinks a lot, smokes a lot, drives while drunk a lot and has a past of self-harm. Adams plays Camille with a twinge of a Southern accent. It fades in and out at times, like her ability to cover up her past in Wind Gap. 

When we meet Camille’s mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), she’s as saccharine as she is intimidating. We can tell there’s something happening beneath her cover of floral wallpapers and pastel pink, floor-length dresses. Her husband, Camille’s stepfather, toys endlessly with his sound system, underscoring many of the scenes in the house with driving classic music. Amma, Camille’s 13-year-old half-sister, shows off her dollhouse — a pastime that seems juvenile for her age.

With only one episode released, “Sharp Objects” is still just a collection of symbols and clues. Director Jean-Marc Vallée spends time lingering on the neon lights of Wind Gap’s bars, the graffiti scribbled on the town’s main street and the tiny vodka bottles in Camille’s bag. 

Notably, many of the montages in the premiere take place in near-silence. When combined with the use of close-ups and shaky camera movement, this lack of dialogue indicates that “Sharp Objects” is invested in introspection. Our tendency to believe that something seedy is happening below the surface of Wind Gap — even below the surface of the murder investigations — is confirmed in these montages. 

The premiere of “Sharp Objects” indicates the rest of the season will explore a world even darker than Flynn’s “Gone Girl” and its film adaptation. In “Sharp Objects,” Adams inhabits a twisted inner life entirely reflective of her skillset as an actress. 

Adams’ character development is supported by the work of “It” actress Sophia Lillis, who plays young Camille. The two iterations of the character frequently cross paths in flashbacks, indicating that Camille is truly running from her former self. 

Come for expectations of “Big Little Lies.” Stay for an even darker story and a stellar performance by Amy Adams. 

“Sharp Objects” is worth paying for an HBO subscription — or just continue stealing your parents’ login information. 

Grade: A