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Amy Adams turns to HBO with Sharp Objects

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Photographs by Anne Marie / Fox/HBO

HBO’s Sharp Objects stars Amy Adams and Chris Messina. It’s a dark psychological thriller that comes with plenty of red herrings.

Let's say you wanted to pull out all the stops and create a must-see limited series. Where do you begin?

Signing a five-time Oscar nominee for your lead is a good place to start and that's what we have with Amy Adams and HBO's Sharp Objects. The dark and ambitious psychological thriller premieres at 8 p.m. today. There will be eight episodes.

Adams is the latest big screen star to sign on to TV. Others who have reversed the traditional TV-to-movie career path in recent years include Kevin Costner, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Halle Berry, Jessica Lange, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Viola Davis, James Spader, Jude Law, Diane Keaton, Geena Davis, Christian Slater, Isabella Rossellini, Ewan McGregor, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Paul Giamatti ... the list goes on.

It wasn't too long ago when "settling" for TV after having made it on the big screen was reserved for fading has-beens in the twilight of their careers. Not anymore. TV is where all the action is.

Why? The production schedule is far less demanding. The money is really good and, with a limited series, you aren't signing away years of your life anymore.

More importantly, the writing for television has become outstanding ever since HBO and the streaming services began pouring money into it, while the movies have opted to concentrate on superheroes and computer-generated blockbuster thrill rides.

If you want smart, intimate character-driven stories, you'll find them these days on TV.

Created by Marti Noxon (Dietland), Sharp Objects, is an adaptation of Gillian ­Flynn's 2006 debut novel of the same name. The series is a perfect example of prestige television.

Viewers may know of Flynn from her other novels, Gone Girl and Dark Places, which were made into feature films. Adams, however, is a familiar face.

We know the 43-year-old redhead (she's actually a natural strawberry blonde) from her roles in Junebug, Doubt, Julie & Julia, The Fighter, The Master, Big Eyes and American Hustle. Many will remember Adams from her 2006 feel-good role as Giselle in Disney's musical romantic comedy Enchanted.

Adams' role in Sharp Objects is the opposite of Giselle. She portrays complex and tortured Camille Preaker, a reporter whose editor sends her back to her small Gothic hometown of Wind Gap, Mo., to investigate the murders of two young girls.

Aside: Don't look for Wind Gap on the map. Barnesville, Ga., stood in for the fictitious Missouri town. Flynn, a TV critic for Entertainment Weekly when she wrote the book, is a native of Kansas City, Mo.

Covering the murders is not an assignment that Camille relishes. Recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital after years of cutting herself, her shocking scars cover her body and run deep in her psyche. Camille is still fragile and living on a diet of vodka and candy bars.

Returning to Wind Gap and her estranged family dredges up dark childhood memories of Camille's own family tragedy, the disappearance of her sister, Marian. In fact, the self-destructive Camille finds herself identifying with the young murder victims a little too closely.

At the center of everything is wealthy socialite Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson), Camille's domineering, toxic and psychologically abusive mother living in her stiflingly formal Victorian-era mansion.

Eliza Scanlen is a scene-stealing standout as Camille's rebellious half-sister Amma, who's leading a double life as prim, dutiful daughter at home and wild child around town.

And Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) portrays Richard Willis, a Kansas City detective sent to investigate the murders. Willis slowly discovers that the real mystery in Wind Gap is not who killed the two girls -- it's what's haunting Camille.

Sharp Objects is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed Big Little Lies, and written by Noxon and Flynn.

In an interview with HBO about why she wrote her novel, Flynn says, "There were a lot of stories about men and violence, their rage, and how they handled that, but not about how women handled their anger and violence, particularly generationally.

"Not everyone is going to root for Camille. Not everyone will think Camille is likable. Who cares? She shouldn't have to be."

About playing Camille, Adams adds, "I've never felt more exposed, even in American Hustle -- when I was literally exposed."

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 07/08/2018

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