When it comes to dysfunctional children, there hasn't been anyone on TV quite like Sharp Objects' Amma Crellin, a spoiled extrovert who battles her existential ennui with whatever intoxicants she can get her hands on. Amma's burgeoning, if doomed, relationship with her half-sister Camille has seemingly piqued the former's unbounded curiosity, leading to some of the series' most disturbingly human scenes. And 19-year-old star Eliza Scanlen thinks the self-destructive family dynamic is the source of what makes watching Amma's actions so uncomfortable for viewers.
Sometimes people can't even pinpoint what it is about the show that makes them feel uncomfortable. I think it's just that. I think when we see these women who have suppressed their rage so much that they have to resort to self destruction, or suppress it so much that they need to destruct other people and lash out on the world, it's uncomfortable to see and it's because it's uncontrollable and it's unexplainable. . . . Even just her demeanor is just so far to how I am as a person that I knew that there was a lot to work on before the show. I think she has this undying confidence in herself and belief that she is in control of everything and that she is superior to everything. It not often that you come across people that have such a strong inner resolve.
Now, no one is going to come out and say that post-pubescent teenagers are the most logical, level-headed and non-impulsive people on the planet, so there's an easily graspable baseline for at least some of Amma's calamitous decisions. But the choice to get fucked up at a house party is quite different from actively persuading a years-older suspected murderer to cheat on his anally retentive girlfriend, and then later calling them both killers in front of a crowd of chant-happy people. Those latter choices are quite singular in their nature, and they're just at the tip of Amma's iceberg.
Making things all the more cringe-inducing is the fact that Amma isn't even a high school student yet, which speaks to how maddeningly troubled both she and her parents are. Having Patricia Clarkson's Adora for a mother and Amy Adams' Camille for a sister isn't a cut-and-dry excuse for Amma's confrontative behavior and rampant personality shifts, but that home life situation certainly took its toll on the roller-skating teen, turning her into someone who feels the need to act out negatively in order for others to care for her. Particularly her mother.
Speaking with THR, Eliza Scanlen talked more about how the family's psychological underpinnings tie into Amma's choices.
It's this strange cycle of abuse and I think Amma is taking that on in her own perverse, warped way. Even thinking on it now I am still so baffled and perplexed by Amma as a character. No answer is a wrong answer as to why she does things the way she does. Doing those scenes really showed me a lot about Amma as a character and her unique ways of expressing love and affection; expressing gratefulness for a lost sisterhood and a sisterhood that she's never been able to experience until now. Quite a nice scene in weird way.
Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of Sharp Objects. In "Cherry," Amma goaded the unraveling Camille into taking Oxycontin and Molly and hanging out at a high school party. (Although after that sob-fest of a Beaches viewing party, anything would have sounded like a grand ol' time.) By the episode's end, after Adora had already put in a soft request for Camille to leave the family home, the half-sisters were closer than ever, sleeping in the same bed following Amma's foreboding warning that something bad will happen to Camille. For anyone who may be suspecting Amma and Adora for their involvement in Wind Gap's murder situation, that was quite the ominous moment, and one that the elder sibling shouldn't take lightly.
Watch more of Amma's unsettling behavior when Sharp Objects airs on HBO on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET. And be sure to soak it all in, since the miniseries presumably isn't getting a second season like series director Jean-Marc Vallée's other HBO show Big Little Lies is. But head to our fall premiere schedule to check out what shows you can get obsessed with when Sharp Objects has come to a close.