Copious Notes

‘Sharp Objects’ has been a great summer trip. But no, reporters should not act like that.

Patricia Clarkson as Adora, Eliza Scanlen as Amma, and Amy Adams as Camille in HBO’s “Sharp Objects.”
Patricia Clarkson as Adora, Eliza Scanlen as Amma, and Amy Adams as Camille in HBO’s “Sharp Objects.” HBO

By the end of the first episode of HBO’s limited series “Sharp Objects,” my dominant thought was, if I or any of my colleagues did a fraction of the things on the job the newspaper reporter played by Amy Adams did, I would be so fired.

As the series winds into its finale Sunday night, that’s a reaction that has been reenforced and deepened a number of times, as she has progressed from things like being drunk on the job to having sex with sources. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a thoroughly engrossing couple months visiting the twisted town of Wind Gap, Missouri every Sunday.

For those who have not visited yet, “Sharp Objects” is based on the debut novel by “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn and directed by “Big Little Lies” visionary Jean-Marc Vallée. It tells the story of Camille Preaker, a native of Wind Gap who has moved on to a fledgling career as a big city newspaper reporter.

As the show opens, Camille’s editor assigns her to return to Wind Gap to investigate a gruesome murder of a teenage girl and the disappearance of another. We quickly discover Camille has a lot of issues including alcoholism and cutting herself, stemming from a traumatic childhood that included the mysterious death of her step sister and rape at the hands of fellow high school students.

Back in Wind Gap, she returns to her family’s large home, ruled by her domineering mother Adora — played so brilliantly by Patricia Clarkson I thoroughly hate her and hope she is the muderer — and her stepsister Amma, a creepy mean girl who is a popular pick to be the murder.

No one is really suspecting any of the men, because the whole theme of the show has been don’t underestimate what the women of this town are capable of. A dude doing it would be such a let down, although at the end of last Sunday’s penultimate episode, the brother of one of the murder victims sat in the Wind Gap jail, charged with murder.

It has been a series of increasingly bizarre, disturbing summer Sunday nights that makes Stephen King’s blurb about the novel ring true for the series: “I found myself dreading the last 30 pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them.”

Yeah, I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but it can’t be good.

And yes, if Camille was not such an ethically compromised reporter, we probably would not have a story here. But there are still things about her and the story that can make a journalists’ eyes bug out of their heads, roll on the floor and burst into flame.

Why is Camille being sent back to her small hometown to cover this story? OK, for a few minutes we could maybe buy the theory that since she’s from there she knows the place and could find her way around quickly. But then we learn Frank has a theraputic tact for Camille in this assignment, it makes no sense. He really thinks sending a woman haunted by the death of her sister back to her hometown to investigate the murders of little girls is going to help?

For most journalists, once it became obvious your own family was part of the story, that would be time to pull the plug or send someone else in.

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Camille with her “water” bottle in HBO’s “Sharp Objects.” Marie Fox HBO

The alcoholism. Raging alcoholism. Camille doesn’t just have a few drinks. She is pretty much constantly drinking, when not in a bar, out of a spring water bottle actually filled with vodka. And she drinks when conducting interviews, to excess. Every paper I have worked for has had a no tolerance policy for drinking on the job, unless we’re doing something like a bourbon tasting.

Still, somewhere through this haze, Camille writes stories, including one that gets the most clicks ever on her paper’s website. I know there is the romantic notion of the hard-drinking writer, but if I imbibed as much as Camille, I wouldn’t be able to string a coherent sentence together.

All that said, I do have to hand it to Elle Magazine’s Emily Tannenbaum who has been faithfully chronicling “Sharp Objects” and diagnosed: “If I’d grown up in a town like Wind Gap — which gets its kicks celebrating the rape of a confederate soldier’s wife on Calhoun Day each year — with a mother hell-bent on keeping me on a tight leash, taking solace in a bottle of vodka disguised as spring water might not seem like such a bad plan.”

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Amy Adams as Camille Preaker and Chris Messina as Det. Richard Willis in HBO’s “Sharp Objects.” Marie Fox HBO

Sex with sources and other — ahem — ethically questionable behavior. If you wondered, watching the show, should a reporter have sex with the lead investigator of a murder they are covering, that would be a big no. How about taking a fugitive accused of murder to a hotel and having sex with them there, before the police bust in. Nope, on several levels. That stunt made the point when she went into one of the dead girls’ bedrooms to gather some evidence without permission, and then told her editor she had permission, look like a little white lie.

Camille, you frustrate us. But we feel for you. Life dealt you a pretty rough hand, even for coming from a highly privileged background. We hope this all turns out well in the end, but after eight episodes, we know better.

Two other notes:

My summer jam has been the “Sharp Objects” playlist on Spotify, which gives us everything from country classics from artists like Carl Perkins to hypnotic meditations from The Acid (the most appropriately named band I have heard in years), Perry Como we hear on Alan’s stereo, old-school hip hop and beautifully curated Led Zeppelin “In the Evening” makes recurring, appropriate appearances in the show. Our own Chris Stapleton even shows up with “I Was Wrong,” which played during a bar scene.

A big reason I spent Sunday nights with this show is Bardstown native and University of Kentucky graduate Lauran September, who played one of Camille’s pack of means girls from back in high school. It was a nice turn for September, whose biggest moment was a boozy drive with Camille in which she revealed a bottle of bourbon in her SUV’s arm rest. Keepin’ it Kentucky. Looking back on the show, I can say Lauran gave us fair warning in her tweet after the “Sharp Objects” premier party.

“I can’t wait for ya’ll to {wander} around Wind Gap and meet all the characters,” she wrote. “But make sure you get the hell out of town after you do, these people are crazy.”

ON TV

‘Sharp Objects’

Series finale 9 p.m. on HBO (Spectrum Ch. 700). The series is available On Demand and through Amazon Prime.

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