Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pilot Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects (HBO)
Premiered July 8

The trend of movie stars coming to television for high-quality miniseries is nothing new. With the recent success of “Big Little Lies,” it’s clear that HBO wants to continue creating watchable programming anchored by strong female performances. This project, which is based on a book by Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl,” certainly has an appeal, delving deep into a dark mystery whose subject really isn’t pleasant. While I do remember very early Amy Adams in “Cruel Intentions 2” and an episode of “Smallville” where she ate people, it was her incredible endearing turns in “Catch Me If You Can” and “Junebug” that first put her on the map in a big way. Since then, she’s been nominated for five Oscars and turned into a real star. Here, she gets to play potentially the darkest, most disturbed character she’s played yet, and much of it reminded me of “Nocturnal Animals,” which isn’t a great thing given my distaste for that off-putting film. I’d like to be enthralled and intrigued by what’s going on here, but the density of the premise combined with its gritty, unappealing nature make it hard to find worthwhile. There is clearly great talent here, starting with Adams and including Patricia Clarkson, Elizabeth Perkins, Chris Messina, Matt Craven, and Miguel Sandoval, but for all the overly buoyant and peppy structure of “Big Little Lies” that made me not love it as much as most did, it’s the lack of any hint of light here that proves stifling and ultimately uninviting.

How will it work as a series? Having a protagonist as unstable as Adams’ Camille means that the show really can go anywhere, and it’s not as if those closest to her, including her family and her editor, are even remotely looking out for her best interests in what they are pushing her to do and be. There’s such to be plenty more unpleasantness uncovered, and whether Camille will make it through unscathed is very much a question.
How long will it last? The ratings debut for episode one was great, and it’s not too surprising that its numbers went down a bit by episode two, which aired last week. Every comparison is going to be made to “Big Little Lies,” and so if this adaptation, which has earned favorable reviews, can do just as well, it may too end up being recommissioned for a second series even if there’s no source material on which to base it.

Pilot grade: C+

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