'Sharp Objects' is Great Except for How It's Totally Wrong
Sharp Objects on HBO has rocketed to the top of my current must-watch list, in that I actually bother to watch it on time every week when it airs. You know, like how we used to watch all shows unless you had the magic VCR that could be programmed and didn’t short out its clock twice a week thus negating all the programming work. It’s a great show, dark and full of hints and suspicion. It perfectly captures the suffocating atmosphere of small-town life and the burden of parental expectations and sins on their children. It is truly excellent TV, which is why I regret to inform you that it is also totally TOTALLY wrong.
Here’s the thing; Adora (Patricia Clarkson) had Camille (Amy Adams) when she was about 18. Afterward, she married Alan (Henry Czerny) and had Marian (the daughter who died) and then many years later Amma (Eliza Scanlen). Camille is, at the time of the events of the book/show, supposed to be somewhere in her mid-20s. Adora herself should be in about her mid-40s, and Eliza is explicitly 13.
This means that Amy Adams, at 43, is about the right age to be playing her character’s mother. While I like the work that she’s doing, I think that the age skew is introducing some different dynamics into the show than were in the book. The push-pull between Camille’s instinct to be under her mother’s roof and obey her while trying to protect herself makes sense if she’s only a few years out from that being her life. Adams looks like she’s been away from home for at least a decade, if not more. I keep wondering why she doesn’t just go get a hotel and fuck what her editor thinks. She looks too old to still be automatically deferential to her elders. It also adds strange suspicions that the book never hinted at; my boyfriend asked me if Amma was actually Camille’s daughter (she’s not). But visually, they look like they could be.
Adora herself was someone I always pictured as a Southern Belle raging against aging and taking it out on her daughters in a variety of ways. She was a powerful woman in her time, and she can feel that time slipping away from her. She’s getting older and the town around her is dying as she does. But having her at the point where she’s more a grand dame of the town than its fading beauty queen puts a very different spin on her as well. Her power is clearly derived from her social position rather than her looks or appeal (though Patricia Clarkson is still very lovely and plays flirty). Adora in the book had the same social position, of course, but there was more of an undercurrent of active competition with her daughters that feels forced on the show.
The problem is, of course, that given the nature of the show there’s no way they could have an actual 13-year-old playing Amma. And how could you turn down any chance to have Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson in a poisonous mother/daughter relationship? I understand exactly why the show was cast the way it was, and I’m enjoying the work that all of these women are doing bringing these dark, complex relationships to the screen. But I’m still a little disappointed that they aren’t quite the relationships I was expecting.
Header Image Source: HBO
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