Journalist Camille is investigating the murders of two teenage girls, while herself unable to escape the demons of her adolescence, her own self-destructive tendencies, and the danger she fears she poses to those around her.
Each episode of Sharp Objects opens with the same sequence of images, but every week different music accompanies these visuals. There is a profound influence of the music on the montage, rendering the scenes sinister or sincere merely by choice of the tune. This parallels the view of the townspeople on the recent murders in their quiet hamlet, and in general how the story is shaped by the teller. It is through protagonist, Camille (Amy Adams)’s perspective primarily that the audience experiences the events in Wind Gap, and the lens of her perception has a distinct impact on how the viewer interprets what is shown. The opinion of a prodigal daughter in her town is very different from that of the perpetually grieving mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson), or the rebellious teen sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen). Camille is an unreliable narrator — her point of view is marred by hallucinations and memories that make it difficult for her to distinguish between the real and the imagined.
Camille’s blurred experience of reality combine an evening in the present spent consoling a drunk Amma who craves a sisterly bond with her estranged sibling, and an evening in the past spent in a mental health facility with a different disgruntled teen named Alice (Sydney Sweeney). Alice was Camille’s bunkmate in the facility, where the two bonded over their need to self-harm. Camille’s seniority doesn’t bode well for Alice’s future, “I thought this was the kind of thing you grow out of,” Alice observes. Camille and Alice bond over music, the songs serving as an escape from their bleak circumstances. Back then, Camille reached out to Alice to try and ease her suffering, but now Camille keeps Amma at arm’s length, wary of forming a bond with another teenager.
Although Camille has filed her first story about the dead girls in Wind Gap, her editor encourages her to stick around for a while and work on a follow-up piece. She encounters an eerily controlling Ashley, the girlfriend of John (Natalie’s brother). Ashley seems to know everything about everyone in the town — including classmates of Camille’s — and assures Camille she can get John to talk. She’s even certain it would be good for John to talk to a sensitive writer like Camille. Later, Ashley in a cheerleading uniform (school’s out, sometimes she “just gets to feeling spirited”) plays house while Camille interviews John — serving them drinks and even offering John an alibi for the night Natalie went missing. John claims he was out driving around, and Camille retorts that she’s not sure a grand jury will appreciate the beauty of an open highway.
Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) is also still in town. He is increasingly frustrated with the racist and lazy crime solving skills of the local sheriff, who refuses to explore the possibility that the killer could be a local. He’s also unhappy with Camille, whose story he fears will turn an inconvenient spotlight on the town and interrupt his investigation. The suspects for him include John (Natalie’s reclusive brother) and Bob (Will Chase) (Ann’s father, whose record includes drunken brawls and DUI’s). Camille manages to score a few minutes with the latter before Adora becomes barging in to remark on the impropriety of Camille’s line of question and shut down the interview. Between Adora and the sheriff, it seems very few people in Wind Gap wants the truth to come out about what’s happening to these adolescent girls, especially if it reflects poorly on them.
Dismissed from Bob’s home, Camille follows duplicitous Amma to the pig farm, where an unknown boy hands Amma a baby pig to cuddle. The gentleness with which Amma cradles the piglet is a moment of genuine tenderness and an overall embodiment that Amma never reveals when assuming her saccharine personae around Adora, or when channeling the rebellious girl gang attitude she carries outside the home. Both are masks she wears in different environments, but at this moment, she is revealed.
That night Amma begs Camille to go out and party with her, but Camille refuses, concerned for Amma’s safety. Camille herself spends only a few moments at home before the memories of her dying sister drive her out to a bar, and to Detective Willis. Both Camille and Detective Willis see the serial murder of two young women in Wind Gap and are looking for the pattern that reveals the killer. Camille herself was the common factor in the deaths of two young girls about the same age — her sister, and later, Alice. Camille and Richard flirt and discuss the case, Richard probing Camille for stories about the past. He has a hunch that perhaps some long-held grudge or unresolved dispute from years ago could be a motive for the modern crimes he is investigating. Amma too couldn’t bear to stay in the house, and later torments her sister in a parking lot. “Be dangerous,” Amma begs her sisters, “be dangerous like Momma said.”
The danger Amma craves — drinking, older men, independence — are vastly different from the danger Camille poses to herself, the danger she holds herself responsible for in the lives of others. As Camille speeds down an empty highway, flashbacks reveal that her relationship with Alice ended with Alice’s death by suicide. Horrified by the sight of her young friend dead on the floor, Camille ripped into her flesh. The only thing that startles her from her reverie is a road sign — 90 miles to St. Louis. Camille throws her phone out the window of her car and catches a quick flash of a young woman in her rearview mirror, the past inescapably always in her pursuit.
Fix was written by Alex Metcalf and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
Photos and video credit courtesy of HBO.
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