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TV Series Review

We all have scars, whether we see them or share them.

Camille Preaker has more than her share, on the inside and out. The St. Louis newspaper reporter keeps the visible ones—the words she's carved into her own skin—hidden with long sleeves and a chilly, almost hostile reserve. The scars deep down … well, they still feel fresh and raw, despite their age. She tries to balm them with bottles—no, buckets—of liquor. But it never seems to do the trick. They still hurt, so she swallows still more.

Her current assignment isn't helping, not in the short term at least. Two tragic, seemingly senseless murders have been committed in Camille's hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. Her well-meaning editor, Frank Curry, wants her to chase down the story. He knows it won't be an easy assignment. He knows that Camille's past is filled with ghosts and demons and festering wounds. But Curry's not one to let those things stew. As a good news editor would believe, he thinks it's best to get it out there, like a painful but important story. Face it. Deal with it.

"Life is pressure," he tells Camille, not unkindly. "Grow up."

So she goes back to where she grew up, to face the horrors of the past and present. She goes back home.

Soft Tissue

A handsome home it is, too—at least on the outside. The Victorian-era mansion is filled with the smells of fresh-cooked breakfasts (courtesy of a live-in servant, Becca), classic jazz (courtesy Camille's polite-if-reserved stepfather, Alan) and oh-so-many beautiful things, all managed meticulously by her mother, Adora, Wind Gap's most respected socialite.

But open up some of the home's many closed doors, and you'll find dysfunction and tragedy. One hides a room that belonged to Marian, Camille's younger sister, who died from a mysterious illness when she and Camille were both still girls. Marian's room is like a museum—left just the way it was when the girl died. Open another door, and you'll find Amma's bedroom. She's Adora's youngest—beautifully prim at home, but a wild child outside it who experiments with sex and booze and drugs.

Then there's Camille's own deep-pink room with the crack in the ceiling, a crack that she and Marian once traced with their fingers right before Marian died. Camille's staring at that crack again, because she rarely sleeps these days. Not unless she passes out in her car.

But Curry's expecting a story, so Camille has to push through her boozy haze and small-town miseries to file one. As a former resident of Wind Gap—the prettiest girl in town, it was once said—she's got a little more leverage with the locals than a true outsider might, which gives her an informational leg up over big-city detective Richard Willis. But still, it won't be an easy story to track or write. And she wonders whether (like her editor hopes) the time back home will help. Or will it just add more scars to her skin and soul?

Gothic … and Gory

Sharp Objects, based on a book by Gillian Flynn, is well-titled, and as such carries its own cautionary message to would-be viewers: This HBO miniseries may inflict its own share of scars.

We can't and won't deny this modern gothic mystery's aesthetic quality. Sharp Objects is sharply written. Anchored as it is by five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, the performances are top-notch.

But HBO itself seems to know that this show might be difficult for many, given its themes (and often graphic depictions) of substance abuse, mental health concerns and self-harm. The show, à la Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, offers a list of resources for those who might be struggling with mental illness.

But the issues in this show aren't just topical or thematic.

HBO is well-known for its graphic sexual content, of course: We've documented that plenty in everything from Game of Thrones to Westworld, and those shows' yen for skin has even been called out in the broader secular culture.

Sharp Objects is not, in some ways, as unnecessarily gratuitous as Game of Thrones (for which the term "sexposition" was coined). But in the first episode, it exposes viewers to something I've never seen on television before: The camera pans over a few magazine pictures that depict graphic, hardcore porn. I had no idea that those sorts of images would be allowed on television, even on premium cable.

Sharp Objects doesn't turn away from violence or language, either. And as for alcohol and drug abuse … I've never seen more than here. Again, there's a narrative reason for it, but heaven help anyone who might be tempted or triggered by such behavior.

Sharp Objects drills down into a quaint small town and a seemingly picture-perfect family to expose a wealth of sin and grime beneath. I'm a little like Curry when it comes to real-world issues: Better to expose them and deal with than keep them hidden. But when it comes to unearthing this sort of stuff in fiction? For our "entertainment?" Don't see much reason to unlock the door and let it out.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

July 8, 2018: "Vanish

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Amy Adams as Camille Preaker; Patricia Clarkson as Adora Crellin; Chris Messina as Det. Richard Willis; Eliza Scanlen as Amma; Matt Craven as Vickery; Henry Czerny as Alan Crellin; Taylor John Smith as John Keen; Madison Davenport as Meredith Wheeler; Miquel Sandoval as Frank Curry; Will Chase as Bob Nash; Sophia Lillis as young Camille Preaker; Lulu Wilson as Marian Preaker; Elizabeth Perkins as Jackie

Director

Distributor

Network

HBO

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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