This past Sunday, I started the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, based on Gillian’s Flynn’s novel of the same name.
I’ve read all of Flynn’s books prior to seeing any sort of filmed version of the stories, and though I was not a fan of the film adaptation of Gone Girl (sorry for being “that guy,” but the book was better) and I have yet to see her second book-turned-movie Dark Places (wildly ill-received by critics), I wanted to give the newest Flynn installment the old college try. Third time’s the charm, right?
Journalist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) returns to her small, rural hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to report on the disappearances of two teenage girls. She is ultimately reunited with her mother (Patricia Clarkson) and half-sister (Eliza Scanlen), only to relive painful flashbacks of her childhood and the death of her younger sister, causing her to self-harm and self-medicate with interminable drinking.
Her dependency to the bottle is paired with her dependency on music. In just three episodes, we see that Camille’s reliance on alcohol and music is almost palpable. Whether she’s lying in bed or taking a bath, her liquor and earbuds are always within arm’s reach.
As soon as she gets in her dilapidated car, she connects her cracked iPhone to an “AUX” cord of days of yore, cues up “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Led Zeppelin and reaches for her Evian bottle filled with vodka. Her selection music is an extension of herself — she can’t quit her vices.
The show’s music supervisor, Susan Jacobs, has strategically handpicked a dark, unruly soundtrack to enhance the depth of the characters’ inner turmoil. After further investigating the music choices, it’s clear that Jacobs has a keen ear and discernable taste. Camille’s go-to karaoke song is “Ring of Fire” — an apt choice for a rough-and-tumble small-town girl — but when the bartender puts it on, it isn’t the Johnny Cash version he plays but a bold, breathy cover by Eric Burdon and the Animals that I had never heard before.
It’s as if Jacobs is keeping us on our toes with the more obscure choices she’s made. It’s like being handed a glass of milk, but when you take a sip, it tastes like orange juice. You think you know what might be coming next, but you don’t.
The music that plays in her mother’s stately Victorian home is classical and pure. The music that surrounds Camille is gritty and severe, bluesy and introspective. We hear both the subdued, bass-thumping tunes of LCD Soundsystem, Emily Wells and The Acid as well as folky country songs consistent with a tiny Midwestern town, like Chris Stapleton, M. Ward and Hooray for the Riff Raff.
Susan Jacobs has opened her audience to some low-key, incredible music. I’ve already read the book, so I know how the series will end, but I’m still intrigued to see where Jacob’s ominous soundtrack leads us. Listen to the Spotify playlist below, which features all the music used on the show to date, to get a sense of it.
Sharp Objects airs on Sundays at 9pm, HBO.