The Brilliant Adaptations of Big Little Lies & Sharp Objects

When it comes to directing hit shows, Jean-Marc Vallée is a pro. Both award-winning novels, Big Little Lies by Liana Moriarty and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, were recently adapted into HBO television series, directed by the one and only Vallée. The shows are alike in terms of similar storylines and directing styles. With each story being about a murder mystery and family issues, Vallée creates a twisted atmosphere that pleasurably overtakes the audience. His signature trademark on the shows was his use of sporadic flashbacks and glimpses into the future, which gives the audience hints about connections to the characters’ past, present and future. His work on Big Little Lies landed him one of the eight Emmy Awards it received in 2017. The masterpiece that is Sharp Objects is expected to take home awards this coming year as well.

The brilliant acting encompassed by the many strong actresses is the main contributor to each series’ success. In the drama-filled series, Big Little Lies, some of the most popular actresses in Hollywood were cast including, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley. Each of the women plays powerful mother figures who would do anything for their family. Jane Chapman (Woodley), moves to a new town with her son Ziggy to escape her past, but her escape inevitably turns into something she didn’t sign up for when she meets Madeline Mackenzie (Witherspoon). She soon comes to know the town is filled with lies, violence and hypocrisy. When drama arises in the beachfront town of Monterey, California, where the show is set, everyone becomes involved whether they like it or not.

The fiery female roles also cross over to Sharp Objects. It possesses more of a dark and disturbed setting than Big Little Lies. Amy Adams is the perfect person to play the conflicted protagonist, Camille Preaker. Camille has an abundance of external and internal conflicts she must deal with throughout her struggle as a small journalist assigned to investigate two little girls murders in her hometown of Wind-Gap, Missouri. Her mother, Adora Crellin, who ironically also happens to be the antagonist, is played by Patricia Clarkson. Adora obviously favors Amma, Camille’s younger sister, more than her and thinks of Camille as nothing more than a girl interrupted.

Camille Preaker’s character was very difficult for Adams to perfect. Every episode Adams would have to go through hours of special effects makeup in order to resemble the scars Camille has all over her body from years of self-harm. The image of this damaged woman repels viewers away at first but eventually wins us over with her light and kindness that inevitably shines through her broken being.

Music choice is a major factor that Vallée focused on in order to make the series and characters feel more understandable. The different music genres and refined tastes give us insight into what the characters are feeling throughout each scene. The Big Little Lies opening credit song “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka is a peaceful yet mysterious song that you could say perfectly embodies the theme of the show. Some other artists played include Elvis Presley, Leon Bridges, The Temptations and Janis Joplin’s 1960s band Big Brother and The Holding Company.

Sharp Objects features many artists, including Led Zeppelin, which becomes Adams' signature sound. Her struggles are exemplified through the music she chooses through her shattered phone screen. Camille’s character contains all the qualities you would think of as rock, which makes the music choice perfect. In one scene, Amma and Adora dance around to Tupac’s “Dear Mama” while Camille watches from across the room, signifying the strained relationship between mother and daughter.

The powerful female characters completely dominate each series and possess the power to turn lives around for both good and bad. The preconception behind women being weak is challenged in a refreshing and different lens throughout each show. They are the protagonists as well as the antagonists; they lie, manipulate, and even murder, while also being nurturing, caring, and captivating. Vallée flawlessly captures the power of women on-screen for everyone to admire.