Cast: Amy Adams (“Arrival”), Patricia Clarkson (“Six Feet Under”), Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project”), Eliza Scanlen (“Grace,” “Home and Away”), Elizabeth Perkins (“Weeds”), Matt Craven (“Justified”), Miguel Sandoval (“Clear and Present Danger”)
Airs: The eight-episode first season premieres Sunday on HBO
The premise: St. Louis Chronicle reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Mo., to cover the murder of one preteen girl and the abduction of another. Trying to put together a psychological puzzle from her past, she finds herself identifying with the victims.
The limited series is based on Gillian Flynn’s (“Gone Girl”) novel of the same name and was developed for television by Marti Noxon (“UnREAL,” “Mad Men”). The series is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (“Big Little Lies”) from scripts by Flynn and Noxon.
Highs: Camille Preaker is a bit of a mess. She lives in a dingy apartment, always dresses in gray or black, drives a beat-up car, smokes frequently, and drinks like a fish. If this sounds like a stereotypical newspaper columnist, that’s not surprising. Gillian Flynn was a journalist for 15 years, so Camille feels authentic. But there is a lot more to this character than a nose for the truth and a sense of fearlessness.
Camille has a self-destructive bent, yet she’s a survivor. An alcoholic who engages in risky behavior, Camille will drive intoxicated and put herself in precarious situations. She also cuts herself, sometimes writing words into her skin. Camille is a tortured soul, but “Sharp Objects” keeps things close to the vest at first.
Adding to the air of mystery is Camille’s interactions with others. There are plenty of allusions to a troubled past. She has a father/daughter relationship with her editor, Frank (Miguel Sandoval). It’s obvious there’s history between them, as he both encourages her yet isn’t afraid to remind her how she’s supposed to behave. Camille plays coy with a detective brought from out of town as a special investigator, but the single reporter is cagey and elusive as if she doesn’t know how to act socially.
The most befuddling relationships for Camille are with her immediate family. Amma (Eliza Scanlen) is Camille’s teenage stepsister who leads a double life. At home ,she’s a sweet girl who plays with a dollhouse. At night, she sneaks out, dresses provocatively and drinks with friends. Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is Camille’s mother, the queen of Wind Gap high society. Never pleased with her eldest daughter, Adora is sure to rile up viewers with her “I’m better than everyone” attitude.
There are a lot of unusual characters in Wind Gap. Although they’re a bit strange, almost all of the characters have depth.
Lows: Leaving viewers wanting more can be an effective strategy — to a point. At only eight episodes, “Sharp Objects” doesn’t have a lot of time to build backstories and create perspective, yet it moves at a glacial pace.
Camille’s strained relationships, particularly with her know-it-all mother, are understandable but frustrating. About anyone can relate to not getting along with a parent, but the contempt in Adora’s voice when talking down to Camille loses its efficacy since the series takes so much time explaining their history. “Sharp Objects” does this with other characters as well.
Grade: (B): From the opening scene. it’s clear this series was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. The soundtrack is impeccable and the camera work is stunning, so comparisons to “Big Little Lies” are sure to occur. This show requires more patience, however, with its foggy path finally beginning to clear around episode three. But “Sharp Objects” sucks you in, making it hard to stay away from its curious world once you’re engaged.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.