sharp objects ripe review

We’re at the halfway point of HBO’s eight-episode miniseries Sharp Objects, and if we’re just listing out plot points, it doesn’t really feel like four episodes’ worth of stuff has actually happened. But the story reveals of Sharp Objects are so fundamentally tied to the character reveals, and the more we get to learn about Camille – who’s sent her article off to her editor and yet remains in Wind Gap, listening and observing, gathering data that doesn’t mean much to us as of yet but seems to mean a lot to her – the more we learn about the brutal little town that made her.

“Not everything is that girl’s fault.”

In “Ripe,” we spend some time with Camille in her teenage years, with flashbacks painting a more heartbreaking portrait than we even could have imagined. It’s Sophia Lillis is so extraordinary in this role, rarely speaking, just registering trauma and cruelty and self-refusal in those big, still eyes, offering a young mask of stubborn composure that mirrors the one Amy Adams wears as Camille in her 30s.

While Adora makes it clear this week that their relationship was cursed from the day Camille was born, the years after Marion died were particularly hard on the family (including poor, oft-forgotten Alan, who’s really in above his head in this family full of willful women). Camille tiptoed around her mother after her sister’s death, shaming her own birthday and hovering just outside door frames, hoping to be invited in. We can see the constant rejection from the person who’s supposed to love her best in the world start to work on Camille, as she allows five football players to “have their way” with her in the woods as a teenager and can still barely let a man whose company she seems to enjoy kiss her as an adult. She doesn’t want to be pitied any more than she wants to be called a slut. She just considers this memory a simple fact of her past, and if it keeps creeping up into her present day thoughts, well, that’s what the vodka’s for.

We want to blame Adora for Camille’s pain, especially after their horrible confrontation this week, with Adora hurtling the episode’s title at her daughter like a knife sharper than any that’s scraped Camille’s skin. But they are both part of a cycle that started long before them in Wind Gap, a town where every woman is undervalued, mistreated, dismissed, “gets a nasty label if they don’t conform to the rules of engagement.” Adora had her own mother to contend with, and now they both have Amma – Amma, who feels like a pretty pink explosive that’s primed to go off in every scene she’s in. Amma, the most intimidating person in a town filled with intimidating people.

“Bless your heart very much.”

Camille’s past shows up all over her scenes with Richard, with these two offering one of the least romantic romantic pairings possible. They do seem to like each other, and Adams and Chris Messina share a compelling chemistry, but there’s something toxic at work between the two of them. Of course, they’re pretty outwardly using each other – Richard for the inside story to Wind Gap’s bleak history, Camille for printable quotes – but even with both parties’ open admission of their ulterior motives, it feels like they’re constantly hiding something from each other while trying to dig out what the other is concealing.

It’s an exhausting dynamic, certainly not made healthier by their shared dependency on booze and Camille’s complicated issues with physical intimacy. We keep wanting to see Camille open up with someone ­– that’s why her brief scenes with Jackie or phone calls with Frank, in which she seems to relax her guard and occasionally even smiles, are such a relief – but the more time she spends with Kansas City Detective Richard Willis, the more she seems to close herself off. This is not a swoon-worthy ‘ship, Sharp Objects is very clearly telling its viewers. If you want romance, you’re watching the wrong show.

“The town needs a bit of frivolity.”

God, Wind Gap is a crummy town. Gayla (Emily Yancy, terrific in the role) tells Camille that as a woman of color, she has two options for employment in Wind Gap: domestic work or the slaughterhouse. Camille’s too busy nursing her own wounds to acknowledge her privilege in asking Gayla why she still works for Adora, the privilege inherent in the fact that – financially, at least – Camille’s free to leave Wind Gap whenever she pleases. That anyone would want to stick around this town is a mystery, but the Adoras and Ammas and Madisons are running the show pretty well as they like, spreading nasty rumors or worse about anyone that doesn’t fall in line. We’re starting to realize that Ann and Natalie could have been killed for just that reason – that they were “weirdos,” outsiders and misfits, young women who didn’t conform to Wind Gap’s rules of engagement and were mutilated and murdered for it. The violent incident in Natalie’s past, the hunting shed, their friendship with Amma, Camille’s two killers theory – all of that remains to be proven or disproven, to matter or not matter. But what we know now is that Wind Gap is unkind to unconventional women. However else this mystery plays out, we know that much.

***

“Ripe” opens and closes with two intensely disturbing montages, with Camille’s drunken impressions, unhappy memories and lightning-quick observations running together to make for one very confusing tableau. But we’re starting to understand more of this big picture, and every new angle uncovered just adds to its ugliness.

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