WE MAY BE LATE BUT WE'RE HERE FOR IT (SHARP OBJECTS RECAP)
My daughter has always had a dark kind of soul. She is incredibly sensitive, observant, curious, and thoughtful. So much so that before she was 5 years old, she knew the world was shit and we were all going to die faster than we wanted. Often, I wondered where such a small person could have found that much depth so quickly.
As I watched the opening sequence of HBO’s Sharp Objects, I slipped easily into Camille Preakers’ (Amy Adams) character during snapshots of her driving. I haven't read the book, but knew what to expect. Flashes of rural America -- an overly dressed girl on a swing, a record player, a farm, and a couple dancing on the porch of a Victorian with a 30s jazzy soundtrack -- and I feel the connection that I have to my daughter about her painful awareness of existence. I imagine that, at a younger age, if I had created my version of a perfect Disney Princess, it would be Camille.
I never bought the fluffy dress and tiara rockin princess bullshit. I was born into a house of broken people, folks who were damaged through generations of pain, rage, and injustice. Princesses were ridiculous, but women who openly carried their pain, haunted by things out of their control, and who walked under the weight of the consequences of other people’s actions, these were the women I understood and love.
Episode 1, Vanish, opens with a flashback. Young Camille is played by Sophia Lillis, a strawberry colored short haired, freckled faced girl. The scene is beautiful - a rolling road, Camille softly smiling as she reaches her hands out wide to try to touch her sister Marian’s (Lulu Wilson) fingers, while Sylvan Esso’s Come Down accentuates a freedom you only understand as a child.
The girls tiptoe through a house, when they come across a sleeping grown Camille, and prick her hand with a paperclip. Camille wakes up, in her St. Louis apartment, and the girls vanish. It’s a phone call from her boss that wakes her.
Camille is a journalist barely holding onto living. She’s an alcoholic with tons of booze filled airplane bottles scattered around her apartment, cigarettes, and candy bars. She has two phones, a broken phone that she pumps tunes and a work phone. She wears pants to bed, which I think is the only flaw in her visual character building. No one wears pants to bed. NO ONE. A poster of Obama is plastered next to her desk as a reminder that LIFE IS JUST SO GODDAMN UNFAIR.
After rolling into her boss’s office, Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) tells her she’s going on assignment in Wind Gap, MO, the town where she grew up. She’s to investigate a possible serial murder of young girls - duh, it’s always young girls. Natalie Keene is the girl who is currently missing and Ann Nash is the girl who was murdered a year prior. Camille hears the proposition and is like, “Fuck Wind Gap.”
Frank strongly presses the assignment on her, implying that she needs to get her shit together. He tells her that she has an opportunity here to strengthen her career and/or get right with her past. Setting up the obvious daddy issues background for Camille because your boss doesn’t need to be that into your business.
Camille reluctantly heads back to Wind Gap and finds a motel. Here we learn about her music taste, her brown Volvo - which must stink from all the cigs, and her ability to masturbate to orgasm even while drunk. The show folks have a magical ability to blend scenes that make it difficult for the viewer to tell what is memory, what is real, what is imagined, and it’s all fantastic. As Camille quickly rubs one out, there are flashes of Young Camille in the woods where she’s swimming alone, hears a gunshot, and then a young boy points his rifle at her. She gets out of the water and rides her bike home, when she discovers a wooden hut.
The hut has bloody animal parts distributed throughout. There are plastered images of bondage porn taped on the walls and she is shook. I’d like to make a side note that I hate this trope that bondage is some creepy fucked up insight to a disturbed violent person. Bondage can be a beautiful experience between two reasonable, happy, consenting adult people. To be honest, some people have lovingly made babies through rope play and spankings.
The next day, she meets Chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven). She tells him why she’s there and confesses to be a native. The conversation is short and she leaves not knowing much more, except that Vickery may know less than she does. She drinks a lot and phones her boss for updates. At this point the episode starts to really do its job by rolling through the plot set up, introduction of main characters, and serving background like a boss.
Camille tries to join the search party in the woods for missing teen Natalie, where she runs into a group of teenagers, one being her half sister she doesn’t recognize. She meets Mindy Kaling’s ex boyfriend Chris Messina, which really messed with my brain. Messina plays Detective Richard Willis, an outsider who has been put on the case and thinks Vickery is a moron. Prediction: Camille and Willis take a ride to Poundtown.
She sees her mom’s pal, Jackie O’Neele (Elizabeth Perkins), who is killing it in her blue dragonfly flowered mumu. Camille has a flashback of being chased by boys in the woods while sporting her cheerleader uniform, leaving us wanting to know more. Instead, we watch Camille head to her mom’s.
Her mom is the blonde haired, coral nightgown set wearing, eyelash picking, cocktail guzzling Adora Crellin, played by the incredible Patricia Clarkson. While shocked to see her daughter, she maintains her cool and allows her daughter to stay. The director, Jean-Marc Vallée, drops us into the heaviness of this relationship and perfectly captures it when Adora takes Camille to her childhood room. Adora and Camille pause for a moment, Camille with her back to the camera entering the room and Adora, also back to the camera, just outside the room. It’s a quiet moment that tells us everything.
Adora doesn’t like what Camille is doing there. We learn that Camille’s sister Marian died as a child, though we’re not told why. Rather, we’re given hints - a flashback where the girls talk about death, another where Marian starts writhing, and then there’s Marian’s former bedroom where we see a hospital bed and an I.V. stand. Adora is deeply affected by her daughter’s death compounded by her strained relationship with Camille, while also raising a third daughter, Amma. Dear god, how many tampons must this house go through? Oh! And I forgot to mention that these folks are Maid-in-a-Uniform rich.
The house if full of memories, Camille loses it, runs to a karaoke bar now owned by an old mate, finds out about Natalie Keene’s brother John, sees Detective Poundtown, gets drunk in her car, and falls asleep to the Zepp. When she returns home, Adora has had it with Camille’s shit. She screams about how long Camille has been gone and adds that everything Camille does is a reflection of who Adora is and what she represents in the community. Suddenly, I’m in my own mother’s kitchen listening to her yell at me about how my all black clothes are depressing and sends a message to people that my mom was raising a sad angry daughter. Then, I flash back to a moment when I’m staring at my own all black clad daughter searching for the strength not to repeat the same words and now, I am unsure where the show and I are separated. MOMS SUCK.
Camille runs to the liquor store. The clerk looks at his watch indicating his a judgey mofo who doesn’t know to mind his own business because it’s PERFECTLY normal to have vodka available for bloody marys, which is clearly what Camille is going to use them for and not working drunk. GOOD DAY, SIR.
Camille interviews Ann Nash’s dad, Bob (Will Chase) drunk. She shows no signs because she’s a goddamn professional. Bob retells the day that his daughter disappeared, hints at a broken marriage, and reprimands his daughter for walking into the room they are in. This guy is a dick, but of course he is, his daughter is dead.
Later, Camille is in town and sees some kids ripping up a shrine for Natalie Keene. John, Natalie’s brother, is hanging out there and Camille wants the kids to stop when she is quickly interrupted by screaming from a woman in an alley. There, they discover Natalie’s body. The kids, the brother, Camille, and even Chief Vickery find this poor child placed on a windowsill like a ragdoll and everyone is out of their mind.
After being interrogated by Mindy Kaling’s ex, Camille goes home. Camille realizes that it’s been so long since she’s seen Amma, she didn’t recognize Amma at the shrine nor when they discovered a DEAD PERSON. Instead of addressing that, Amma shows Camille that she’s building a dollhouse that looks like the house she’s living in, and once again, I think it’s symbolic of how we’re all doomed to become our moms and why it’s so much better to be an alcoholic who masturbates too much.
Amma tells Camille that Adora finds Camille incorrigible and admits to living a double life. The episode ends with Camille taking a bath. Her cutting scars are revealed on her arms that spell out the word Vanish. That bit was little cheezmo for me, but I’ll take it because I love Sharp Objects.
My daughter had a brief stint with cutting. It feels gross for me to admit, but it’s also the truth, no matter how much I don’t say it. I think of my kid and have made peace with who she is, which is someone who understands life is so precious that it hurts sometimes to be living it. Most people look at her as something that needs fixing, truthfully, though, I feel like it’s the people around her that do. Camille gives me this same feeling. She seems disengaged, foggy, unclear, but I wonder if she’s actually the most engaged, the most clear, but no one wants to hear her because her tiara doesn’t have the right shine.
BONUS! I’ve decided to include a cocktail recipe inspired by each episode of Sharp Objects. It’s going to be the only thing that keeps me from crying, so here’s this week’s recipe.
Vanish Cocktail Recipe:
1 Bottle of Smart Water
1 Bottle of Absolut Vodka
1 Small Funnel
Unscrew caps of both bottles
Dump out Smart Water - this is tricky because both liquids look the same
Pour Absolut into Smart Water bottle using a funnel
Screw top back on Smart Water bottle
Go to work, taking sips every 10 - 15 minutes