“Night Film” by Marisha Pessl Review


Night Film

Author: Marisha Pessl

Release Date: July 2013

** spoiler alert ** I began using Goodreads several years ago just as a place to track the books I read and give them a star rating. Like many others, I began expanding my use on here, first cataloging books onto various shelves, then tracking what my friends were reading, setting reading goals, and even reviewing the books I read (which has been much more helpful in remembering what I thought about book 15 in a 25 book series than a star rating was). This last year, I’ve really began to track other reviewers that write thoughtful reviews and read similar material to what I read. Based on those reviewers end of year lists, I made a shopping list for some of their favorite books they read last year and thought I’d try them out myself. Up first is “Night Film,” a book that Octavia picked as her favorite she read last year and described it at one point as follows: “There is not one thing that happens in this book that doesn’t contribute to the story. I adore Marisha Pessl’s writing style, and this book left me wanting more, and as they say, a good book always leaves you wanting more.”

For those not familiar, “Night Film” is the story of a disgraced reporter following up on the suicide of the daughter of a famous director. The reporter is disgraced because of his prior attempt at investigating the director (Cordova), and when he sees Cordova’s daughter shortly before her suicide he is drawn into the mystery of her death and, by proxy, Cordova’s life. Cordova is basically the ultimate recluse, so much so that even his actors and crew go into hiding after films, and his last six films have only been released underground. Along the way the reporter gets two sidekicks in his investigation and follows twists and turns that provide multiple explanations for the all of his questions.

My personal reading routine is pretty standard over the past several years, I read three books at a time, and try for 25 pages a day in each, with extra time to whichever book has captured my attention. I bring that up because this book benefitted from a slow nightly installment style read through. Every day I’d get a few more clues, and felt like I was participating in the investigation along with the main characters. The presence of media throughout the book (I don’t know how else to describe it) in the form of photos, magazine clippings, medical reports, also added to that feeling. The exception to that was at a point near the end of the book **spoilers follow** where the group breaks into the reclusive director’s estate. This section didn’t work for me as much as it basically read like the scene in any movie where a character induces a large quantity of drugs accidentally.

The ending of the book is likely to drive some people crazy, but if you follow along with the plotlines of the various Cordova films you’ll be able to see it coming a mile away and can’t complain too much as a result. **More spoilers** The reader is given two explanations for all of the plot twists in the book, one rooted in rationality, the second based on magic and mystery and religion. There’s a part of me that wishes the book had ended when McGrath (the main character) visits a nursing home and says “thank you,” but that probably explains what sort of person/reader I am. The third explanation for the book is given by McGrath to his friend that is a Cordova expert, and that is that he is inside a Cordova film, which the author doesn’t really elaborate on how that would even be possible but it’s actually the explanation that best explains all the occurrences throughout,

One of the biggest problems with the book is McGrath’s initial recklessness which causes him to become a disgraces journalist. The same thing would have made more sense later in the book, after he was wrapped up in the mystery, but seems out of character from everything else we learn about him throughout the book. I did not download the app because I didn’t realize there was one until I was finished with the book, and though I enjoyed it I didn’t enjoy it enough to go back and find all the other clues leading up to an ambiguous ending on a second flip through. Still, a solid read overall, thanks Octavia for the recommendation.


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