Sunday, August 12, 2018

REVIEW: 'Sharp Objects' - New Evidence Is Discovered but Everyone Is Distracted by Personal Drama in 'Cherry'

HBO's Sharp Objects - Episode 1.06 "Cherry"

Adora provides Chief Vickery with a key piece of evidence in the Ann Nash murder case. Richard probes for details about Camille's dark past. John's girlfriend, Ashley, looks to make news for herself. Amma bonds with Camille during and after a wild party.

Sharp Objects has told such a profound story about female rage. It's fundamentally a story about the women of this community and the challenges they face because of the perceptions and assumptions of the central crime. It would so easy to say it's a narrative about the generational differences between the three women of the Preaker family. Camille, Adora and Amma are profoundly different from one another. That is very much because of the generations they've grown up in and the experiences they've had in the world. And yet, it's easy to see the connections between them as well. The show has explored how the community of Wind Gap is so static to every generation. The cycle of trauma and darkness continues over and over again. It's a series of abuse that is systemic to this community. There is a direct correlation between the popularity that Ashley seeks and the group of former cheerleaders who want Camille to join their social circle. This is still a community that is stuck in the past and holds such reverence for the history of the region as well as the repression of the true and abusive darkness that also permeates through these stories. This isn't a town where the people properly deal with their trauma. Amma can tell her friends that Camille had another sister who died and she has never dealt with her emotions regarding it. Amma sees Camille's cutting as a response to that tragedy. But this hour also highlights how Camille was dealing with self-harm long before Marion died. Sure, it could still be a way of her directing her anger inward. The doctor tells Richard as much when he is discussing the treatment given at the St. Louis rehab. But again, it's too simplistic of an answer. This is a show that understands the complexity of humanity and the psychology of ways that people are connected. We enjoy telling simple stories in order to better understand the world. But the show is also proving that there is no simple answer.

All of this extends to the central mystery of who killed Natalie Keene and Ann Nash as well. The entire town just wants to believe that it was either John or Bob. That's the only solution to this mystery that would make sense to them. Ashley can say with complete certainty that there is no way that her boyfriend killed his sister. And yet, her explanation is flimsy. She says that it would make him popular and that's the furthest thing he wants. That highlights how she is just a young woman who believes that popularity is the most crucial thing for success in this world. She may actually be attaching herself to John because of the notoriety surrounding him. She is so eager to be quoted by Camille in her story about the murders. She wants to be a prominent fixture of this story. And yet, she's not even involved at all. She just wants her moment of fame. She wants the moment of rebellion as she flips off an entire party of high school students for calling John a murderer. She also wishes to cover up the true darkness within her as well. Camille notices that part of her ear has been removed. That's the aspect of the story that interests her. But Ashley just wants to present a picture-perfect life. That's the mentality that has been forced onto her because of this community. She grew up in a culture where it was important to keep one's secrets and avoid talking about anything real. She just wants Camille to publish the narrative she is pushing. It's a false reality because Camille already knows the true perception of the girls at the center of this case. She knows that they weren't the saints of this community. They were dark outsiders just like she was as a young girl. But everyone is choosing to remember them for something they weren't. That's just like Ashley idolizing Camille for simply being a cheerleader despite tragedy even though that's never been the aspect that Camille would look at as the definition of her story.

But again, it's so vital to present a simple explanation for human behavior. Chief Vickery wants to believe in the wholesome values of his town despite the many horrendous things that have happened over the years. He doesn't understand just how conservative and traditional the community actually is. This is the way he likes it. He challenges anyone trying to tell him that it's not right at all. He is proud to dress up as a Confederate soldier. He is proud to serve as the police chief of Wind Gap. He once again believes that his theory about the case is correct. It may not have been a grifter who killed the two girls. But he believes he has all of the proof to believe it was John based on some flimsy evidence. All it takes for him to come to that conclusion is discovering Ann Nash's missing bike at the bottom of a shallow lake outside the Preaker pig farm. To him, that proves that this wasn't some plan that was elaborately thought out. It's just someone acting in the heat of the moment. The teeth pulling would suggest something completely different. And yet, Chief Vickery now has a lead that he believes will satisfyingly wrap up this case. He believes Camille and Richard will soon be out of his town. Wind Gap will be able to go back to normal. He believes all of this even without the clarity that this man is actually responsible for the crime. He is willing to convict him simply because it allows a simple explanation for the rest of the community. He is going to forever change someone's life because it will make his job easier. It's enough for him to see Camille and Amma roller blading outside after the curfew and not think much of it. The killer hasn't been arrested yet. But Chief Vickery believes he has this crime solved. However, he's at least investigating while Richard is off pursuing the mystery of his new girlfriend.

It's fascinating and despicable to see Richard so fixated on trying to understand Camille too. He doesn't just come out and ask her these questions. Instead, he is plagued by the tease that Adora gave him during the Calhoun Day celebration. That's the thought that is now occupying his mind. He's not driving around town trying to solve this murder case. He came to Wind Gap in order to arrest the man responsible for killing two young girls. He's fortunate enough to be at the lake when the bike is pulled out. But he's not the first person anyone calls with that discovery. He's the one who knows it's a bad idea to wash it completely just so it can be identified as belonging to Ann. He knows there is still the potential of fingerprints being pulled off of it. But he's not following up with that evidence. Instead, he goes to the rehab in order to research more about Camille. He is choosing to be very active with that investigation. He finds himself very intrigued by her. She may just be the only person in this town whom he can completely trust. She too is an outsider who is completely innocent. He has to look at everyone with suspicion. Anyone in Wind Gap could be the killer. Camille is from here and knows the history without ever being looked at as a suspect. Richard enjoys that distinction. Adora is trying to disrupt their connection. She is choosing just to see the darkness within Camille, the daughter she has never loved. Camille may only be pursuing this romance with Richard in defiance of her mother. She is still lashing out because of these unresolved feelings about the past. She is yearning for more and that has contributed to her anger. Richard is trying to better understand this. But he's reaching out to the rehab and Jackie for answers. He does receive some clarity as he continues to woo Camille. But he doesn't walk away from all of this with some new profound understanding of her. He knows things that have happened to her but he doesn't comprehend the psychological ramifications of all of it. That can only come from actually being and understanding Camille.

The discovery of the bike is also a huge break in the case. Camille is out of the loop though. She's not there to see the genuine reactions of everyone involved. Adora wants to keep the moment private. She doesn't believe it's her place to gossip about Bob or the assumptions now being made about the case. As such, everything Camille learns is second-hand information. She still doesn't fully comprehend the human dynamics of the individuals involved in this case. She is still learning new information about everyone involved. But she too is incredibly distracted. She laments the amount of time she's at home with her family. It has allowed her to forge more of a relationship with Amma. And yet, that's pretty destructive as well. It plagues Camille with thoughts about all of the young women in her life who have died. She is continually chasing after something that Amma inherently has. But Amma is so similar to Camille as well. She wants to escape from Wind Gap. She sees Camille as her salvation. She is a potential way out. She is placing so much hope onto her. Whenever Camille tries to shut down her suggestions, Amma immediately becomes destructive. That's a pattern that pops up again and again here. As such, Camille is forced to go along with a lot. She goes to this high school party, she takes oxycontin and ecstasy, she roller blades around town and she lets Amma sleep in her bed for the night. Amma is so dependent on this relationship. Camille is too because she doesn't want her sister to repeat the same problems that she did. She doesn't want Amma to live life with the burden of the damage she has inflicted to her body. Amma empathizes with the desire to cut. She feels the pull of that darkness as well. Camille approaches it with the understanding of the damage it causes. Amma sees it as a form of rebellion. That's what separates the two of them. But it's also completely terrifying to Adora to see her daughters bonding. None of this is healthy at all. Camille doesn't have the perspective to stand up to Amma and tell her that this drug use is dangerous. As such, she encourages these patterns which is bound to only further traumatize their lives moving forward because they lack the clarity to know any better. That comes from a life spent in this very specific community.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cherry" was written by Dawn Kamoche & Ariella Blejer and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
  • It's confirmed here that Camille was raped by a bunch of guys from the football team when she was a teenage cheerleader hanging out in the woods. Kirk has so much regret for what happened at that time. He wants to be forgiven because he doesn't want anyone to hurt his daughters like that. And yet, it's not Camille's place to make him feel good about himself. He should have known better. She is still traumatized by that event even though she refuses to call it rape. 
  • Camille is also such a complicated character when it comes to feminism. She is blunt in telling Kirk that they both got fucked by that event in the woods. That's her standing in defiance of societal norms of femininity. She is expressing her rage. She also rejects the idea that a woman has to be a mother in order to be completely fulfilled as a symbol of their gender. That's the concept being pushed onto her by the group of former cheerleaders.
  • Even Alan has an easy explanation for why Adora is so difficult. Whenever she is too demanding or abusive to her children, he can simply say that that's the only way she has known to be a parent because her mother lived in constant fear that her daughter would die. That means that Adora lived her mother's own worst nightmare. That irony and tragedy was bound to change her in some profound ways even though it's clear she was difficult long before Marian died.
  • There were times where Alan almost seemed sympathetic because he was willing to reach out even when Adora was too distressed about any given situation. But here, it's shown that he is essentially powerless. He caves to whatever Adora demands. He sleeps on a pullout couch because Adora doesn't want him in the bedroom at night. He can't even get Camille to move her car even though Adora demands it of him.
  • Camille's time in rehab was the last time she sought out professional help in handling her disease. But now, it's clear that she was hurting herself right before she checked in and immediately before she checked out. Alice died, Camille hurt herself and then she checked out the following day. She told Adora that she has her issues under control. But now, everyone has the clarity that it remains an ongoing struggle for her not to take out these emotions on herself.