Sunday, August 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Sharp Objects' - Camille Exposes Herself to Adora and Amma Ahead of a Celebration in 'Closer'

HBO's Sharp Objects - Episode 1.05 "Closer"

Despite a potential serial killer on the loose in the community, Wind Gap residents gather for Calhoun Day, an annual southern-pride festival hosted by Adora on the grounds of her house. As Amma and her friends act out a traditional play depicting the sacrifices made by the wife of a Confederate soldier, Adora shares confidences with Richard that may impact his relationship with Camille.

It's so much easier to wave something away as not being as horrifying and offensive instead of actually dealing with the brutality and monstrosity that is so apparent. Even after Wind Gap has been victim to two horrific murders, the citizens don't want to put a stop to their annual traditions. In "Closer," Adora hosts a major festivity that the entire town attends. As such, the expectation is that the killer will be there in the crowd and it'll be up to Camille and the investigators to track down who it could be. And yet, the ongoing mystery of who killed Ann Nash and Natalie Keene really isn't the thing driving the story forward. There's no meaningful progress made to that investigation here. Instead, the story is all about how this darkness informs the characters and what they are willing to do next. It doesn't phase Adora at all. Yes, she honors the curfew and expects Amma to listen to all of her rules. But she also wants to go about her day doing the same exact thing as always. She wants to remind the town of its values. This is a tradition that has long been upheld by the family. Calhoun Day has always been celebrated by the Preaker family. It's important to her. It doesn't matter that it's fundamentally a story about the Confederacy and how one woman survived being raped and burned in order to allow reinforcements to arrive and kill the Union soldiers. It highlights the complexities of the world while still just being absolutely fine with all of the casual racism and depravity on display throughout this community. They simply have no qualms celebrating and honoring the actions of the Confederacy. This is happening in Missouri too. And yes, that state was a key player in the Civil War. It shows the divides that still exist to this day. It's not like a story of Confederate monuments being on display in places like Iowa or Minnesota. It has value to this specific community even though the setting feels far more detached from the reality of life in the Midwest. These are people who celebrate Southern hospitality and identity. They are a community that gossips and remembers the darkness of the world around them. But they also don't raise any moral objections to these celebrations. It's perfectly fine to raise the next generation holding onto these same views and traditions. That's simply the world that Camille and the audience are wandering around this week.

It's not even about the horrors of the story either. It's all about putting on a production and proving that this world is allowed to operate as it always has. Adora doesn't push for this event to continue because it's important for the town to remember its past. The play isn't some parable with a grand lesson about needing to do better by seeing the horrors of murder and rape. Instead, it's just a story that glorifies the patriotism of being able to kill the enemy. In this story, the Union is vilified in such a broad way. Yes, there is still truth to the story that highlights how both sides were dominated by men who were capable of being so cruel and oppressive to women. But Adora doesn't see the value in becoming an outspoken feminist who believes this story is important to tell because it shows the female perspective in history. Instead, it is simply tradition. This is just what has always occurred. There is no reason to rock the boat now. The teenagers of the community put on this play. The community watches and applauds at all of the production values and the unique way that the next generation is showing their Wind Gap spirit. This is the celebration that they choose to accept. Of course, it's absolutely dark and sinister. These are the values they are upholding while also being completely aghast by the suggestion that someone in their town could kill two people. This is a story about death. And yet, it's shocking to them when their town is once again making news because of the mystery of two girls showing up dead. To them, it's nothing. It's easy to blame the outsiders who don't understand. The world around them just wants to judge them for still holding onto these values. They don't look at this celebration with cynicism or dismay. Instead, it is a part of history that they are choosing to remember because it's important.

But again, there has to be a difference between remembering history and celebrating it. Calhoun Day is clearly a celebration for Wind Gap. Adora loves all of the compliments and adoration she gets because of hosting this event. She loves being the center of attention. She believes herself to be above the law because she always gets what she wants. Sheriff Vickery cautioned against holding this event. She managed to convince him otherwise. He is so distracted by her. As such, he's not even doing a good job with this investigation. He just has his suspicions and nothing more. Of course, Richard doesn't have anything more than that either. He too is distracted by Camille. She is the alluring presence in town who will actually be forthcoming about the past. She understands the true nature of the stories told and doesn't just leave out all of the unfortunate details. The woman at the center of this story was kidnapped by the Confederacy and was essentially a child bride. But that doesn't matter to the people of this town. It's still a story they see as heroism. Camille doesn't value her family connection to this event either. Adora sees it as a way to connect to their roots. Camille just sees the oppression and elitism that has always dictated this community. She just sees more evidence as what she can and cannot do in this world. Even Amma wishes to defy the natural order of things. She just happens to do so by performing while high. She takes some drugs right before going up on stage. It's such a creepy visual watching as her irises become huge. And again, it's less about the performance and what being on stage means for her. She wants this attention and sees being the lead as the only way to fit into this community. When a fight takes that attention off of her, she then runs away in the woods. That gets everyone rightfully worried even though she is completely safe. The fear that she has been the latest girl taken doesn't come true. It's only a worry after the fact for Adora though. Before that moment, she didn't fear that anything bad could possibly happen on her property during Calhoun Day.

And yet, it's vital to have these characters confront the ugly natures of their realities. So often, it's simpler to cover things up. That extends to Camille as well. She has struggled with self harm for so long. The show has shown her at her absolute worst. The audience has been alongside her in the moments where she has really struggled and actually did hurt herself. Adora isn't even thinking about that when she demands that Camille put on a dress for this celebration. They go shopping and want to see the dresses picked out for her. In that moment, it's such a harrowing experience for Camille because she too wants to conceal her body. She doesn't want people getting close to her. This is her battlefield. It's full of chaos and destruction. She believes she has beat this vicious and cruel disease. She is able to tell her mother that she is past the worst of it. She is better now because of the work she did on herself. Of course, her mother still sees her as a rose. These are her thorns that have the potential of ruining so much in this community. Right now, everyone is abuzz by the release of Camille's first article on the murders in Wind Gap. Everyone is talking about how much their beliefs are reflected in the piece. In fact, Amma is furious about the way Camille paints Wind Gap as a desolate area filled with nothing but depravity and disarray. That's what makes it such a shocking moment when Camille reveals her body to Amma. In that moment, she wants to shield Amma from the truth. But again, Adora's pleasantries and need to control everyone forces her to act impulsively. It's a strong moment of discovery and acceptance for Camille followed by a moment of complete horror. She screams to herself as soon as she's locked away as much as she can be. She just wants to be away from her family. Being around them has only forced these dark thoughts into her head once more. She is filled with self-doubts. She believes she's a horrible person because she has spent her entire life hurting herself and those close to her. She does traumatize Amma with this visual. It's a blunt way to show just how dangerous she can be.

Of course, it's also a huge wake-up call for Amma and Adora regarding Camille. It changes their relationships in an instant. Amma suddenly has a dress that would work perfectly for Camille at this event. It allows her to be completely covered up. That means she is able to continue wandering around the grounds having interactions with the other citizens of this community. She is able to get more clues as to what may have happened. And yet, that's still mostly just gossip from those who wish to be deemed important even though they really aren't. Amma is desperate for that attention as well. She wants to form a new connection with her sister. She pushed her away because of the article. And now, she wants it back after seeing Camille's body. She wants to understand even though she can't. She doesn't know what's been going through Camille's head or her rationalization behind the words she carves into her body. In fact, it only puts more distance between them. Meanwhile, Adora becomes slightly more sympathetic to Camille. She is willing to offer more of an explanation for why her love has always been so absent from her life. She attributes all of Camille's personality to her father. He was reckless and wild. And thus, so is Camille. It's the way that Adora has always explained how she turned out. It takes the blame off of herself even though she is still so demanding of Camille to act a certain way now that she's in town covering this story. She's still horrified by what Camille is willing to write about. But she's choosing to ignore it. No words on a page could adequately describe the world of Wind Gap especially from someone who has such disdain for the community and their values. Adora does want to know how Camille can get close to people. But that only further highlights how Camille can't. As such, that's torture for her. That means she defies her mother once again. She acts out by having sex with Richard. It's more intimate than their previous encounter in the woods. And yet, it's still shown through so much fear in Camille because of her body and not wanting to get too close to anyone. She's acting out but still doing so within her limits because of the fears that others may have about her. That plagues her mind and stops so many of her actions even when she wants to be doing them with such confidence throughout this story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Closer" was written by Scott Brown and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
  • It's fascinating how Frank believes he has a strong connection with Camille. He is certainly calling her every day and checking up on how she is doing reporting on this crime while also being back home. And yet, he has absolutely no clue when he tells her to have a drink for him. He just doesn't know that she is drinking basically all of the time. However, he is still a comforting voice for Camille to have in her big moment of defeat.
  • It's clear throughout this event that something is about to happen amongst the citizens of this town because they are all debating over whether Bob or John killed the two girls. That moment comes when a drunk Bob starts beating John up for the assumption that he's guilty. That's a strong moment even though it still mostly happens in the background. As such, the tension is still only slowly starting to rise throughout this community.
  • No one is aware that Amma took drugs which would explain why she was erratic with her behavior throughout the celebration. She just needs to be comforted after running away. She basically passes out after coming back home. Adora is there to care for her. Camille was the one who discovered her in the woods. And now, she'll just be able to sleep the effects of the drug off.
  • Kirk Lacey hasn't been a major character so far. He's the director of this play whom Amma was somewhat flirting with last week. However, that moment is made even creepier with the reveal that he also happens to be one of the boys who was out in the woods with Camille when she was younger. He too could have a direct connection to that shed that traumatized her. As such, it's slightly malicious when he's talking about how glad he is that she is back in town.
  • Camille is afraid of all that Adora could tell Richard in order to turn him against her. She ultimately just wants to talk about the ivory floor in her bedroom that she is very protective of. She doesn't want anyone to get it dirty. But she still warns him that Camille is chaos and destruction. He should proceed with extreme caution. He's definitely choosing to keep that a secret as well.