“Midnight Special harkens all the way back to the slack-jawed sense of wonder that characterized the glory days of Amblin Entertainment,” Slate’s David Ehrlich writes of the soulful new sci-fi movie from Jeff Nichols that stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver. Nichols is a director from the indie world trying his luck on a big-studio small movie. As the film sputters to a lackluster conclusion, Ehrlich asks: “How much time should a young director have to make good on his potential?”
Under the Influence, a new novel by Joyce Maynard, is another work of art in danger of being overshadowed by its creator. Reviewing the book, which came out of the author’s real-life struggles with alcoholism, Katy Waldman was disappointed to find clichéd characters and a familiar plot: “Instead of a fully imagined novelistic world, Maynard gives us art as echo or schmaltzy impression.”
Also in Slate’s books section, Laura Miller writes about something that almost never happens: a writer who got the chance to revise her novel, 20 years after it came out. Karen Hall’s thriller Dark Debts became a cult favorite after its 1996 release, but the idea of fixing the book nagged at her. So she did. The result, Miller finds, is more assured, but it still may have lost a certain something along the way. (Slate Plus members: Check out Laura Miller’s introduction to Jane Eyre, the next selection in A Year of Great Books.)
Other highs and lows from Slate’s week in culture:
- The Carmichael Show took on Bill Cosby’s legacy
- An Italian newspaper claimed to have unmasked Elena Ferrante
- The cast of Hamilton made it to the White House—so maybe fans should stop offering advice to Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Scandal introduced a Trump-like supervillain
- The real Hillary Clinton cameoed on Broad City
- What made 10 Cloverfield Lane so suspenseful? Was it the visible bra straps?
- A female producer who lends a delightful perspective to The Late Show
- Will a new novel bring lesbian writer Sarah Schulman mainstream success?
- A Lonely Island–produced sketch show with none of the Lonely Island’s charms
- Ken Jennings’ musings on how computers will one day defeat us all