When Stuart Sweet asked me to review HBO’s Sharp Objects, I was excited. After having watched (most of) the miniseries’ pilot episode, I think I need to have a chat with Stuart.
Sharp Objects is the perfect example of a show not living up to the excitement portrayed in its trailer. I had every reason to believe this show was going to be a winner. Like I said, the trailer looked compelling, plus, it stars the lovely Amy Adams. (She was great as the spoiled art gallery owner Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals.) Perhaps best of all was the show’s pedigree. It’s based off the book written by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote Gone Girl. So yes, Sharp Objects had a lot going for it. Too bad the first episode was a complete and utter flop.
Here’s the rather misleading Sharp Objects trailer that I fell for:
HBO’s Sharp Objects Plot
So, what is Sharp Objects about? Your guess is as good as mine, really. Going off what I observed in the first episode, boozy journalist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is sent back to her childhood home of Wind Gap, Missouri to report on the murder of one child and another missing child. Although she is reluctant, her boss Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) orders her to do it. When she gets there, Camille reconnects with a couple old friends and experiences has a rocky start with police officers and her overbearing mother. Camille’s rather droll day-to-day activities are constantly interrupted by ambiguous flashbacks to her dysfunctional childhood.
What Ruined Sharp Objects for Me
Full disclosure: I didn’t make it to the end of the first episode of this miniseries. I kept nodding off throughout, and finally crashed about three-quarters of the way through. It all had to do with how this show is paced, which is very slowly. The first 15 minutes of the episode has very little dialogue beyond one rather brief conversation between Camille and her boss. The rest of it is a series of vignettes that include a dream and Camille’s rather sad day-to-day existence. Her flashbacks to her childhood are haphazardly inserted through this bleak montage.
Another problem with Sharp Objects is how it’s filmed. I’m not familiar with the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, but right from the start it becomes obvious that he’s trying to conjure up all the mystique of a classic Southern Gothic. Look, there are great movie concepts, and then there are shows trying to have great concepts. Sharp Objects falls into the latter category. The pilot episode isn’t so much a show as it is a series of short vignettes that are just sort of slapped together without little to no continuity. I’ve seen better slideshows of my boring Uncle Mike’s trip to the Delaware Water Gap.
Another issue I have is the dialogue. Camille’s conversations with everyone in her life tend to be rather short and lacking in any sense of real direction. There’s just something (intentionally) off about how she interacts with people, and I’m sure this was a choice made by director Vallée. While it matches the show’s odd pacing, it ultimately does nothing to engage the audience – in the show’s nearly nonexistent plot.
Sharp Objects Ignores its Audience
Halfway through the first episode, the show is supposed to have sunk its hooks into the viewer. By then, we’re supposed to be fully invested in the protagonist’s situation, and want him or her to succeed. This is the formula for all successful movies and series available for streaming. Sadly, it’s not the case with Sharp Objects. The series of odd vignettes let us to observe Camille’s isolated life, while the intrusive flashbacks merely leave us guessing. In the end, this viewer couldn’t care less about Camille, her story, or the dead girls in the town. Sorry, not sorry.
After having dozed off – and ultimately fallen asleep – during the pilot episode, I will not pursue Sharp Objects. Now matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t connect with Camille. This is what happens when the director’s focus on the story’s protagonist is fuzzy and incoherent. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been this disappointed in a pilot episode since Netflix’s Altered Carbon. If you’ve been reading this weekly column, you’ll know that I fell asleep in that one, too.
Stuart Sweet Really Pulled One Over on Me!
As I mentioned earlier, it was Stuart Sweet who suggested I feature Sharp Objects in this weekly series. He told me that he’d watched the first episode, but refused to say anything more about it because he didn’t want to “give any spoilers.” He ended by saying, “I really think you’ll like it!” Now, I realize that he’d been playing me all along. He probably streamed this show and felt exactly the same way I do – that it’s not worth the hour-per-week investment. Then he got me all jazzed up, thinking I’d be watching the greatest series since Twin Peaks. He probably did this to get revenge for when I said he was completely wrong about Netflix. (I stand by that statement.) Well, I guess the joke is on me this week. Well played, Stuart. Well played, indeed.
Editor’s note: That’ll teach you, Buckler.