***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Sharp Objects through Season 1 Episode 5 follow. Spoilers***
Where Big Little Lies was the ultimate Hollywood-esque look behind domestic abuse doors, Sharp Objects pulls us down into the muck-filled mire of familial dysfunction, grabs us in its teeth like a rabid beast shaking its prey back and forth until each episode ends, and we find ourselves abruptly ejected from an hour’s-worth of hard-wrung emotions, dizzy — disoriented. Marked by Amy Adams and Patrica Clarkson’s tour de force performances, “Closer” is no exception.
It’s almost too easy to slip into Camille’s weekly wakings, hazily rousing — us alongside — to disorienting images, often a confused combination of past and present. These unannounced flashes forward and back continue to provide the sensory connection between the show and audience, effectively immersing us into Preaker’s often alcohol-addled brainspace in a way we’ve never quite experienced before. It’s not enjoyable per se, so much as uniquely captivating. In between wondering why we’re watching such dark, depressive fare, we simply cannot look away. I should surely stop raving about the methodology employed; bewitched, I am.
As the reality of roller-skates resonates, reverberates off the porch floor to announce Calhoun Day, marking — “… what is unmovable about this place” (everything?) — Camille gets a quick un-pep talk from the boss, readies to scurry out of her picture perfect Southern Home (Legacy and Ivory), a dropped bottle sends her reeling backwards again, a would-be Alice, trapped in her personal wonderland. By the time Camille returns to the present, mother dearest has disapproved her daughter’s attire and with Adora’s re-humbled husband behind the wheel as it were, the girls-only personal shopping hell commences, as does one of the series’ best scenes. That Camille can sometimes so openly rebel against her mother and other moments, be reduced to near speechlessness, begging, raging inside and yet, unable to express what she truly wants to say, is as truthful a depiction of a certain parent-child dichotomy as can be. Adora’s palpable control (self and otherwise) is on full display, here. The ostensibly fully-independent daughter is once again re-plunged into submissive child mode, unable to do or have anything of her own choosing and even as Camille recognizes the signs of Amma’s breaking, she can hardly protect her young sister from their shared nightmares.
Like a caged cat, Camille’s desperation in the dressing room is agonizing to witness; as shock or admiration overtakes every muscle in Amma’s face, Adora maintains composure …takes the moment to further twist an invisible knife, causing Camille to — only after her mother is gone — let out her unbearable pain in a guttural, animalistic (albeit, self-restrained) scream. Her frustration is visceral, immediately transferred to the audience through Adams’ extraordinary performance.
Back at the house, everyone dutifully falls in line for party time, puts on their masks and appropriate socially presentable attire and personalities. Inside, Amma begs Camille to stay, and Adora tries to manipulate Richard with Camille’s “delicate” history. Outside, everyone reverts to displays their ugly high school personas, while the actual high-schoolers play at perfecting their future selves; Amma lets on a little too much, not unnoticed by Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins makes so much of her every onscreen second). In fact, it is during her scene with a crowd of boys (men) surrounding, threatening and attacking Amma, who she is watching, and which of the crowd she is playing to (as she pretends to enjoy the attack), that speaks to the attention-grabbing act she uses to close out this sick celebration (of raping a minor) called Calhoun Day. As scarred as Camille is, that she made it out of a town whose habits are reflected in a despicable play that its residents inexplicably enjoy, prove her a miraculous survivor we can’t help rooting for, despite her inexcusable penchant for drinking and driving.
By hour’s end, Adora lands (what we hope is; are terrified is not) her cruelest blow, purring a ridiculous apology to an already contrite Camille, who somehow manages not to let out the unrestrained version of her earlier scream, when Adora flat out tells her utterly fractured daughter that she never loved Camille. Not only are the words themselves entirely fucked up; the way they are unceremoniously, and as if somehow valuable, conveyed is crushing. “You can’t get close — that’s your father. And it’s why, I think, I never loved you. You were born to it, that cold nature. I hope that’s some comfort to you.” (Never mind that Adora seems to miss her own truth in that statement.)
It’s no surprise, Camille takes refuge in the closest thing to a connection she has in this desolate town that dares call itself home, or that the control consistently eluding her can only be found in the way Camille demands her (what passes for) intimacy: “My way, do it my way. My way … ”
Each week as I watch this series, some part of Camille’s relationship with her mother strikes me a little too close to home. It’s hit the point where I realized how much I’ve purposely forgotten, or stuffed down in some dark hole in the back corner of my brain where I’d been pretty sure I’d never hear from them again. I’m nowhere near as traumatized as Camille Preaker and still, some of Amy Adams’ scenes are haunting to the point they almost feel like mine. While that’s not my favorite experience, I absolutely have to (again) remark on the emotional authenticity on display. Give Adams every single Emmy award and after that, please give her — and the entire group of writers — bonus Emmys for cutting so close to the bone, our own emotional scars are unavoidable.
I keep raving about Adams because there are simply not enough awards in existence to commemorate her all-in performance every single hour — that said — PATRICIA CLARKSON has also hit (horrifying) perfection in this role. Her gritted-teeth control nearly makes me clench my own jaw and every moment Adora is around, I’m just waiting for her to break. We’ve gotten glimpses when someone displeases her, and there were moments this hour, when Amma went missing. I’m practically holding my breath though, for the moment she gets to let it all out. Clarkson’s silky, liquid voice when she’s playing up to, or plying someone, swings to a sharp, harshness when displeased, and it’s … well, let’s just say it’s authentic as fuck. The women on this show are phenomenal.
That includes young Eliza Scanlen (Australian, btw), whose particularly excellent at playing the increasingly evident psychopath who also happens to be Camille’s younger sister. Her emotional range is excellent, especially nonverbal — she’s able to play everything across her face.
Frankly, if every Wind Gap resident isn’t a psychopath, it’d be surprising. WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE CELEBRATE RAPING A MINOR AND CAUSING HER MISCARRIAGE WITH A PLAY DEPICTING THAT EVENT? What kind of mother seems rapt at her daughter portraying that minor at all, never mind in front of a whole town? Never mind; I think we know exactly what kind of mother — the kind who tells her other daughter she never loved her. Granted, this part of the story was created for the series, but it did a great job of illustrating how messed up these people are, this whole town is.
Songs This Hour:
Perry Como, It’s Impossible
Glenn Morris, I Got the Blues
Engelbert Humperdinck, A Man without Love
Hurray for the Riff Raff, Pa’lante
Curry to Camille: “You’ve gotta milk the shit outta that cow.”
Chief to Richard: “Your Preaker girl? Good tree, bad apple.”
Adora to Amma and Camille: “You’ve made me bleed, both of you.”
Camille to Amma after Amma asks, “Did it hurt? ‘Cause I know a girl like you … she said it doesn’t hurt, because the cuts already there, the knife just lets it out.”: “Your friend sounds like an after school special.
I don’t do names, I don’t do boyfriends.”
Camille to Curry: “Whenever I’m here, I feel like a bad person.”
Camille’s response to that Jackhole former classmate who asks “Where’d you learn to write like that? Couldn’t have been here?”: “Where’d you learn to read like that? Couldn’t have been here?”