Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the HBO noir series Sharp Objects (2018). To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.”
A quick confession: I have not read the book this show is based on. I know, I know, some readers are probably throwing their hands up in amazement right now, but I have a busy life and a shelf full of unread novels. The one advantage to not having read the source material is that I can judge this based solely on its own merits.
Given that fact, how does it fare?
Pretty darn well, actually.
From the very beginning the tone is what grabbed my attention. The use of music, sound, and simple cinematography were enough to draw me in and make me curious about what was going to unfold. The dramatic moments were given weight thanks to using silence, or muffling the dialogue, or putting a lot of reverb into the mix. It was unsettling in a way that kept me wanting to know what was lurking underneath the seemingly perfect façade.
There was a straightforward aspect to the camera work that did wonders to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. Then, while a person was fairly certain they knew what was going on, some crazy image from the past would creep into the frame giving a haunting depth to the current events. These flashes were quick, subtle, and put an emphasis on the psychology of the characters more than moving the plot from point A to point B.
If I had to draw one complaint it would be that there were certain things, from a story standpoint, that I wanted to know more about. There was so little context given to the relationship between Camille and Frank that I found myself craving information. The interactions between the two of them, combined with things Frank said in his own scenes, gave me some decent impressions, but never enough to satisfy my curiosity. In fact, a lot of the histories require the viewer to pick up on subtext or draw their own opinions, leaving some of the characters to feel extraneous to the story as the mystery draws to a close.
Speaking of the mystery, it actually took a while for me to get into caring about who might be the killer as they really made the audience wait for any clues. For the first few episodes, the tone and performances carried the day as the whodunit aspect just did not seem to be the focus. Granted, when they started revealing their secrets and then sprung their reveal upon us, I found it incredibly satisfying. While it may have been a tad obvious, any other solution would have felt like a cheat given the strong relationships the show drew between the leads.
The performances were, honestly, stellar. I knew this was a finite story from the get go, but wished we could have had even more time with these actors, watching them play off one another. The trio of lead actresses were obviously the highlight with Patricia Clarkson being the most memorable of the bunch. This is not only because she was an antagonistic presence from her first scene, but also because she still managed to imbue her domineering role with a dark humanity. They say that each villain is the hero of their own story and one can really tell that she tapped into the darkness of her part without ever judging the lengths her character would go to in an effort to achieve her own ends.
All in all, this is a fantastic southern noir that I wish was longer than eight episodes. While it might have taken an episode or two to get going, once it starts firing on all cylinders it really draws one into its web. Fans of the southern belles found in movies like The Help (2011) who would like to see them dropped into the dark world of season one of True Detective (2014) should definitely check this one out.
SHARP OBJECTS is now available to own on Digital Download and comes to Blu-ray and DVD on November 27th.