September 2018 Archives

'The Man from the Train'Bill James’ The Man from the Train is an ugly book, but for the most part you shouldn’t read that as a criticism. It’s ugly in three ways, and two of those were certainly unavoidable given the subject — the murders of more than 100 people in the early part of the 20th Century.

But the third way could have been mitigated to at least some degree. It would have been an admittedly difficult task, but the book — admirable though it is in several ways — is fundamentally unsatisfying.

Patricia Clarkson and Amy Adams in 'Sharp Objects'Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, HBO’s Sharp Objects is a whole bunch of greatness that, finally, amounts to not much of anything. As an atmospheric mystery story, it’s elliptical right up to its closing moments and beyond, but it’s so pleased with how wholly it fooled the audience that it expects nobody will notice the obviousness of its cheats. As the portrait of a family, it crosses a line from awful parenting to horror, shifting in the process from heartbreaking to faintly ridiculous. And as a character study of Camille Preaker — the alcoholic, self-mutilating journalist played by Amy Adams with a compelling rawness — it ultimately just doesn’t care.