Review: Pessl’s Night Film

Night Film: A Novel
Marisha Pessl

New Rule: If a book is worth reading, it is worth the effort of writing a review of at least 250 words. All reviews will end with one of three sentence fragments: (1) “recommended” meaning I can recommend the book to most readers without caveat (2) recommended for the enthusiast meaning I can recommend the book if its subject matter/ genre is your cup of tea, or (3) not recommended.

I’ll start with the book I finished last night – Marisha Pessl’s Night Film.

Night Film is the story of an obsessed reporter investigation into the death of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of the mysterious film director, Stanislas Cordova. The book garnered a lot of press when it was published in 2013 both because Pessl was kind of a wunderkind (having already published the bestselling Special Topics in Calamity Physics) and because she used interactive elements in the book.

Despite the fake websites and creepy photos, this is basically a standard thriller written to be optioned into a film. The plot moves fast, but the characters are broadly drawn and the writing often overblown. While entertaining, it’s also so trite that I thought, at first, that the triteness was going to be a plot point. The hard drinking aging reporter is paired with a pair a plucky young assistants (one of whomis a beautiful young girl, of course). The mysterious film director is a kind of hackneyed version of Stanley Kubrick / Francis Ford Coppola and the movies he directed sounds pretty bad. And while I didn’t see the climax coming, exactly, I can’t say I was at all surprised by the way it ended.

This isn’t high literature.

It is however a perfectly passable thriller and I am a sucker for passable thrillers. If they’re your kind of thing, you’ll like Night Film. If purple prose and schlocky characters will put you off a fast movie plot, then you’re a more discerning reader than I and you should probably pass this one up. I liked it enough that I’m definitely going to read Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Comments (



  1. 2015: My Year In Books | Milo and the Calf

    […] Night Film, Marisha Pessl – Recommended for the […]

%d bloggers like this: