When Sharp Objects debuted last summer, it seemed like Amy Adams might finally be in line to win a a major award. Having notched six Oscar nominations since she broke through as a film actress in 2005’s Junebug (nomination #1), the running joke/cry of despair has been that Adams may forever be a runner-up with the Academy. For all the fuss about “long-deserved” Oscar wins for, say, Leonardo DiCaprio (who finally won for 2015’s The Revenant), Amy Adams is second only to the recently passed-over Glenn Close on the list of living actors with the most nominations and no wins.
In a double whammy at the Golden Globes earlier this year, Adams once again showed off her practiced-to-perfection "gracious loser" smile in both the movie and television categories. It wasn’t exactly a surprise that her performance as Lynne Cheney in Vice was bested by Regina King. But in the TV category, where she was nominated for Sharp Objects, she was shockingly upset by Patricia Arquette, for her performance in Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora. (Arquette would go on to repeat her victory at the Screen Actors Guild awards.) It was enough to make one want to say “bless your heart” to the members of the HFPA and SAG.
Prior to Sharp Objects, Adams’ most notable TV appearances had been on The Office as "the hot girl," as Tara’s cousin Beth in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and as the "wholesome but maybe not too wholesome" farmer's daughter Cathy on The West Wing. There was also the Cruel Intentions TV prequel Manchester Prep, which was canceled before it even aired, deemed too risqué by the powers that be (it was eventually recut as a straight-to-video movie release). Since then, Adams has emerged as an elite film actress.
Two years ago, before a second season had been announced, Big Little Lies stormed the mini-series categories, winning eight Emmys in total. Based on another best-selling novel, Sharp Objects has all the same ingredients — right down to Jean-Marc Vallée as director — but what once seemed like a sure thing, now feels like a bit of a foggy memory.
Recency bias was always going to hamper Sharp Objects’ chances. Whereas a recurring series gets the benfit of a promotional bump as new installments air and voters are reminded of the show's existence, a limited series has to go the extra mile to stand out from countless other buzzworthy offerings. To that end, Chernobyl and Fosse/Verdon will be much fresher in voters' minds. As for Patricia Arquette, though Escape at Dannemora came out at the end of 2017 (prime for the Globes, less so for the Emmys), her supporting role in Hulu’s The Act will serve as a good reminder of the show that gave her the Golden Globe win.
Still, even in this crowded field, Adams' performance as Camille Preaker, the vodka swigging journalist investigating two murders while confronting a painful past, is transformative. I would say revelatory, but Adams has proven time and again just how versatile she is. Whether playing a Disney princess in Enchanted, a brash bartender in The Fighter, or a linguistic expert tasked with communicating with aliens in Arrival, she always delivers. The actress spends most of her time teetering on the edge of oblivion as Camille, but at no point does her performance fall into a trainwreck cliché. Criticism of Camille’s journalistic professionalism was lobbed at the series, and while this character makes a lot of bad choices, Adams makes sure the conversation doesn’t simply revolve around the terribly dull “unlikeable” factor. Instead, this level of darkness and complexity within her portrayal of Camille ensures the audience is with her, even when she is not with herself.
TV awards shows love inviting movie stars to the party, as if it somehow legitimizes the medium; 2019 should be no different. Besides Adams, the main contenders vying for a nomination in this category include the aforementioned Patricia Arquette, plus four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams with her big return to television as Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon. Williams and Arquette appeared alongside fellow miniseries contender Niecy Nash (for Netflix’s When They See Us) as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s Drama Actress Roundtable, which isn’t necessarily an indicator of who will get nominated, but it sure doesn’t hurt in terms of visibility. Other potential hopefuls include Arquette’s The Act co-star Joey King, Emma Stone (Maniac), Connie Britton (Dirty John), Julianna Margulies (The Hot Zone), and Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Wilson).
Sharp Objects isn’t going into this award season with zero momentum, as Patricia Clarkson appeared as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors series (alongside Michelle Williams). Emmy voters don’t always follow Golden Globe voters, but Clarkson has a good chance of continuing her winning streak. Adams hasn’t been absent from the "for your consideration" press either, as she also took part in the Actors on Actors conversation with Richard Madden, as well as talking to Deadline as part of their annual Contenders series, and in a Sharp Objects specific Hollywood Reporter roundtable. But will it be enough?
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Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.