It’s easy to see why folks don’t visit Wind Gap, Missouri.
Everyone there harbors a secret. On the street, residents stare. At parties, they whisper.
When a journalist returns to investigate a murder and an abduction, they’re unusually suspicious. In “Sharp Objects,” anyone could be guilty – especially since the journalist (Amy Adams) left under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Premiering on HBO Sunday, the eight-episode series stretches its mystery to nearly unbearable lengths. Director Jean-Marc Vallee spends the better part of two episodes introducing potential suspects.
The biggest question, however, is why Camille Preaker (Adams’ character) has been sent to cover something that really isn’t a pressing story for her editor.
Eventually, we discover, but, again, it takes a long time. “This is your big break if you do it right,” the editor tells her. The ulterior motive – she’ll “deal with her issues.”
Considering she packs liquor, pills and candy, it’s not hard to see what haunts her. Still, she has a way of asking questions and uses moments from her past to inform the present.
Among the talkers: Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) who isn’t afraid to call out others in town.
Camille’s mom, Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is among those on her list. She’s a society doyenne who believes in controlling the conversation. Mother and daughter haven’t gotten along, but that doesn’t stop her from pretending all is right. She believes daughter Amma (Eliza Scanlen) is the perfect child – the one Camille wasn’t. But Amma leads a double life and could be the link to Wind Gap’s underground.
Like Camille, Richard Willis (Chris Messina) comes to town to learn the truth. He’s a Kansas City detective who has different ways of approaching people. Together, the two form a bond and learn plenty.
Atmospheric and moody, “Sharp Objects” gives Adams another notch in her acting belt, but it also lets Sophia Lillis (who played one of the kids in the latest adaptation of “It”) to draw upon her resemblance to Adams to portray the younger Camille. The two are such a great tag team, it’d be a shame if Adams didn’t return the favor in the next installment of Stephen King’s story.
When we learn more about Camille’s past (“Sharp Objects” ultimately means something), we understand why she is the way she is. But, again, Vallee doesn’t rush anything.
Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel, “Sharp Objects” could have been a fine feature film. The nuance that’s added is merely extender. Her “Gone Girl” handled a more complex story in a fraction of the time and succeeded. This might have, too.
If the goal is to toss another case at her in a second season, “Sharp Objects” could benefit from a change of page.
It’s not as dense as Vallee’s “Big Little Lies,” but it does give its female cast meaty roles to savor. Clarkson gets the biggest slab, but Adams, Perkins, Scanlen and Lillis make the most of theirs. For them, it’s an acting banquet.
Cut thinner, it might have been prime time prime.
“Sharp Objects” begins Sunday on HBO.