WE’VE just seen two whodunit crime mini-series that has the same basic plotline: “Sharp Objects” from HBO is set in the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri, and “Vanished by the Lake” is a French series whose original title is “La Mystere du Lac”. They both have lead female characters who return to their hometown where kidnapping and murder have been committed years ago and how their past now haunts them.
“Sharp Objects” is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the mystery crime drama, “Gone Girl”. The lead character is Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a newspaper reporter who is sent to Wind Gap to investigate the murder of a young girl and the abduction of another one. She hasn’t been home for many years as she has a big tiff with her very controlling and rich mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), who lives in a sprawling mansion.
Camille is an alcoholic and has the habit of wounding herself and carving words on her skin using a pin. She is scarred by the mysterious death of a younger half sister, the first child of her mom with her stepdad, Alan (Henry Czerny).
She has another half sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), who is sickly. The second missing girl soon turns up dead and Camille works with Det. Richard Willis (Chris Messina) looking for clues and leads.
At 8 episodes, the show is really a slow burn but it never really boils up to a truly big and involving climax. The pace is so sluggish we’re tempted to flash it forward several times as we’re getting so bored.
Also, the lead character is so fucked up we can hardly sympathize with her. She’s obviously so damaged that she displays sluttish behavior, quickly having sex with the detective and another boy much younger than her.
When the mystery is finally resolved, it’s kinda disappointing. It turns out Camille’s mother is a nutcase who is afflicted with Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, a case where a parent causes illness in her own children to make them sickly. Her mom turns out to be poisoning her and her sisters.
This syndrome is also shown in the mini-series “The Act”, based on a true story about a mom who causes the disability of her own daughter so they can profit from it.
We really thought we’d enjoy “Sharp Objects” because we like Amy Adams and it’s directed by Jean Marc Vallee, who did a good job in “Big Little Lies”. Here, he chooses to tell his story with so much thick atmosphere and evocative mood, like there’s always a sense of danger and mystery lurking just around the corner. It’s all grim, meandering and humorless, sobrang nagpapa-style.
The whole story can actually be told in about three episodes, so why do they have to stretch it up to a tedious eight? What a big letdown! In contrast, “Vanished by the Lake”, has only 6 one-hour episodes but so much happens in it.
The problem with this one is it tries so hard to confuse us, coming up with so many red herrings and introducing so many characters that are all possible suspects. The lead character is Lise Stocker (Barbara Schulz), a female cop in Paris who returns to their home town as her mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and, later on, we also learn that she’s already been fired by her boss.
She left her hometown when two of her best friends disappeared during a local festival some 15 years ago when they were still teenagers. Now, upon her return, another girl, Chloe, goes missing. Is there a connection between then and now?
It looks like there is, since the man who was arrested and imprisoned for the crime then, Remi Bouchard (Vincent Deniard), has just been released and he becomes the primary suspect again in the disappearance of Chloe.
Lise is not convinced that he was guilty then, or now. She teams up with the local police chief, Clovis (Lannick Gautry), in trying to solve the case of the missing new girl. Remi’s alibi is believable and so he is eventually released, although some folks have already tortured him.
Other suspects include a doctor, a pharmacist that the doctor is having an affair with, a guy who took advantage of Chloe in school, as assistant cop, even Choe’s own dad who turns to be having an affair with the town mayor, Patricia (Claire Borotra), and also Lise’s own dad, a former cop who was having an affair with one of the missing girls and has killed himself by jumping off a cliff.
Also a suspect is Lise’s former teacher, Nicolas Mazaud (Laurent Bateau), who happens to be the husband of the unfaithful mayor. All of the suspects have their own deep dark secret and you will keep on guessing until the very end of the show when it seems the mystery’s puzzle turns out to be not yet fully resolved.
Overall, we find the story not that truly absorbing since there are so many characters who turn out to be mostly worthless. Maybe it could have been more involving if it were told in a more personal perspective from Lise’s point of view, but it got so muddled as it reveals more and more information involving a lot of people and showing some plot holes that are not given the proper resolution. The acting, even by the lead actress, is also nothing to be crow about as she appears quite old for her role. The best thing about this show is actually its beautiful location on a quaint French town by the lake and the mountains. You’d wish to visit it someday.