THE TV SHOW OF THE SUMMER IS HERE... (AND IT’ S NOT LOVE ISLAND)
WRITTEN by Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, and directed by Jean-marc Vallée, the man behind Big Little Lies, it’s little wonder that HBO’S Sharp Objects has been called the most eagerly anticipated series of the summer. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned its stellar cast, including Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and 19-year-old Australian star-in-the-making Eliza Scanlen.
There’s nothing remotely fluffy about this heavily female project. Adapted from Gillian’s debut novel of the same name, it’s a dark, disturbing exploration of addiction, abuse and deep family dysfunction.
‘I’ve been attracted to Gillian’s work for years, because she creates these incredibly flawed females,’ says Amy. Her character in Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker, is a chronic but functioning alcoholic with a history of self-harm. ‘ The external manifestation of internal pain,’ notes Amy, who wore prosthetic scars covering her entire body.
In the show, journalist Camille, recently released from a psychiatric hospital, is dispatched to Wind Gap, the small Missouri town in which she grew up, to investigate the murder of two young girls. But being in Wind Gap means dealing with her mother, the neurotic Adora (Patricia Clarkson), whose idiosyncrasies include pulling out her own eyelashes in moments of stress. ‘ There are a lot of bad mothers out there, and I’ve played a few, but this is something different – she is extraordinary, and it brought me back to playing Blanche Dubois,’ says Patricia.
Part of Adora’s obvious instability is put down to having lost a child; Camille’s younger sister, Marian, died of an unspecified and mysterious illness when they were young. She now pours all of her highly-strung mothering into Amma, Camille’s 13-year-old half-sister, played by Eliza Scanlen. ‘Adora’s overbearing personality overshadows Amma’s independence, her freedom of thought, her curiosity, and so she’s kind of left with no choice but to exercise that control somewhere else, and it just happens to be with her friends,’ says Eliza. ‘And I think that in a small town these universal issues of power and trauma and abuse and mental illness are intensified.’
Sharp Objects has a strong sense of place – the fictitious Wind Gap, where the Midwest meets the South, is a town where, as Camille observes, ‘when someone says, “Bless your Heart”, they mean “Fuck You”.’
‘Camille grew up in a hog-slaughtering town, where her family’s money came from killing animals,’ says Gillian. ‘I don’t care how much money you have, or how much you talk about the circle of life, it is steeped in death, and that does something to you.’
‘It was refreshing to tell a story where the focus was really not on men,’ says producer Marti Noxon. ‘ Women have our own angry thoughts and our own violence and competition, too.’ ‘ Sharp Objects’, starts 2am, 9 July (repeated 9pm, 9 July) Sky Atlantic
Top: Amy Adams with Chris Messina. Above: Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanlen