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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sharp Objects deals with mature and possibly disturbing themes: the disappearance and murder of two tween girls; the sudden death of a young girl and its aftermath; characters who drink to deal with their emotional issues, and who self-harm, plucking out eyelashes compulsively and cutting themselves with the sharp objects of the series' title. Violence is not typically gory but may be particularly upsetting: We see the dead bodies of the young girls, one streaked with blood and unnaturally pale in an alley, one in her casket at a funeral surrounded by grieving relatives. We also hear the details of a teen girl's murder, and her father says he's relieved she wasn't raped and he prefers that she died rather than be raped. Alcohol use is frequent, as characters deal with emotional upsets by drinking and often appear sloppy and shaky. We see one character drinking in many situations, including at a bar and before and after driving -- at one point, she drinks until she passes out in her car, though she'd been planning on driving home. This character and others smoke cigarettes. Teens shoplift vodka from a store and hide it in soda bottles to drink covertly. Rhythmic arm movements and orgasmic moans convey that a woman is masturbating; ripped-out, taped-up pages from hard-core porn magazines show couples having sex. Rough language includes "f---ing," "s--t," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," and "a--hole."
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What's the story?
SHARP OBJECTS' Camille (Amy Adams) isn't exactly eager to revisit her abandoned hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. But when her editor suggests that Camille make a trip to investigate the disappearance of two local teen girls, she finds herself reluctantly reacquainting herself with her own past. She has an unhappy relationship with her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), a complex attachment to her duplicitous teen half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen), and a host of shadowy traumas she holds Wind Gap responsible for -- as well as some very twisted ways of coping with her problems. Can Camille confront the ghosts of her past while making sense of the terrible crimes of the present?
Is it any good?
Dark, spooky, and nightmare-inducing, this tour through a sleepy-but-creepy town's secrets through the eyes of a damaged hometown girl is deeply, but enjoyably, unsettling. Creator Marti Noxon, tongue only slightly in cheek, calls Sharp Objects the capper in her "self-harm" trilogy, which also includes anorexia drama To the Bone and surreal body image takedown Dietland -- and if you're wondering what kind of self-harm is at the center of this series, the title is a big, bleeding clue.
Viewers may at first be disoriented by Sharp Objects' tendency to jumble the present and past, with flashbacks from Camille's troubled life often intruding into her complicated present. But give the drama some time and patience and it slowly reveals what it's really about: how the traumas from one's past can be papered over, but never forgotten. As you watch Camille grappling with her demons -- and picking away at a pair of unsolved murders -- this simmering drama will prove hypnotic to a certain type of viewer who doesn't mind revelations that are gradually and subtly meted out. Those who accuse Sharp Objects of moving too slowly have a point, but like Camille's ample scar tissue, it may grow on you -- and prove impossible to ignore.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why unsolved murders are such a common element of drama. What is it about murder that's compelling for an audience? Why do we like to solve the deaths of characters who are portrayed as innocent and young? Is it a thirst to see justice done -- or something else?
Families can also talk about how Camille shows courage and perseverance in Sharp Objects by returning to her old hometown to face the demons of her past and to try to uncover information about two murders. Is hers a hero's journey? Why, or why not?
Showing a character self-harming can be used as a visual shortcut to demonstrate emotional problems. Is it realistic in this drama? Is it exploitative? Is Sharp Objects drawing a comparison between the way Adora and Camille self-harm? If so, why? Depictions of self-harm are often said to be "triggering." What does that mean, and is it a fair accusation here?
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