Forgotten Fridays: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Posted September 26, 2014 by Kara in forgotten fridays, Kara, Lyn / 4 Comments

forgotten fridays


Welcome to Forgotten Fridays. This mission of this feature is, twice a month, to review books that are more than a year old. And we review them TOGETHER! Most reviews have minor spoilers because it is hard to block them out in a back and forth dialogue about a book. So keep that in mind when reading, though we do try to not mention anything that would ruin a book for anyone.

There are actually some minor spoilers in the post as we felt it was imperative to discuss specific elements of the book, particularly the ending. So if you still intend to read this, keep it in mind. While we don’t spoil it outright, there may be enough clues for you to figure it out.

This week Lyn and Kara tackle Night Film by Marisha Pessl.


Forgotten Fridays: Night Film by Marisha PesslNight Film by Marisha Pessl
Published by Random House on January 1st, 2013
Genres: adult, mystery-thriller
Pages: 602
Buy on Amazon

Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.

For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.




Lyn: This had to be one of the most interesting reads I have seen in a while. What made you pick up this book?

Kara: Do you mean for Forgotten Fridays or just in general, as in the first time I read it?

Lyn: In general.

Kara: Hmmm. Probably the blurb. That and everyone was talking about it. I remember there was a lot of hype on Goodreads for it, and it was one of the books I wanted to grab at BEA but her signing line was wrapped around the aisles. So I wasn’t able to get a copy there. What did you think?

Lyn: It was a mixed bag for me. I really loved how the author set up the world building at the start of the book. I often read news articles online and I like how the book opened with what seemed just like a real article at the start of the story.

Kara: Ahhh yeah.

Lyn: It was something new at least, and it wasn’t info-dumping, but it was short and sweet and I really enjoyed it.

Kara: So you liked the epistolary bits more at the beginning of the story than throughout the rest of the book? Or do you just mean that you liked it most in the beginning?

Lyn: I had some issues towards the end. I started to lose interest in the plot by the middle, and I was dragging by the time we reached the climax.

Kara: Okay. That makes sense. It’s weird because I think I can understand why people don’t love this book, but at the same time, it’s a bit inconceivable to me because I just absolutely thought the storytelling was brilliant. I thought I might like it less the second time through, and even though I was able to pick out a couple of flaws I missed, I might have loved this book even more. The weaving of details, world-building, and atmosphere just absolutely bowled me over from a technical standpoint. And then the ending, which disappointed me before, I have learned to appreciate now. And also, there are so many parallels between the protagonist and Cordova…I was just kind of stunned. I wish you had liked it more. But I’m okay with it not being a winner with everyone.

Lyn: I have quite a bit of respect for the author.  She did a great job keeping the creep factor high during the entire story.  Like you, I wished I had liked it more than I did. It was the characters that killed it for me. I seriously just could not give a crap about the three main people of interest, and I was highly disappointed in some of the tropes used. For something this fresh, I don’t see why we had to fall back on cliches and formulaic plot devices.

Kara: Which tropes did you not like so I can understand?

Lyn: How Nora fell for Scott, how the ex-wife was such a horrible person, how the main character had to hate on his ex for the story, just little things like that. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Also, Scott was a total dick.

Kara: Scott was a total dick, at first. But I think by the end of the book, he had evolved as a character, with the help of Cordova. Which I think is where we disagree. There was the complete evolution of a character there to me. He hates his ex at first, he’s sexist, etc., but by the end of the book he realizes that all she has been doing is protecting their daughter, and he even goes so far as to let her win the custody battle because he just wants Sam to be happy. He is willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment if their situation. He tells Cynthia that hs is sorry and that he should have appreciated her more and told her how special she was when he had the chance. So though he is not perfect, I do feel that his flawed character evolves because of what he has been through.

As for Hopper and Nora, I loved them to pieces, particularly Nora. I thought her quirkiness and eccentricities were adorable. And she was perfectly New York. Hopper confused me because I couldn’t figure out WHY I was so enraptured by a deadbeat drug dealer but there you have it. I think his love for Ashley softened him and made his flaws make sense.

Lyn: If I had to pick a character that I actually had to list as likeable, it is Hopper. He was interesting to me, and I liked how he had his own flow and his own voice. He seemed like a puzzle piece that didn’t seem to fit, but somehow complete the picture.

As for Scott, I can see your point, and I wish I saw the same growth, but it felt that he just crapped out at the end and completely fell out of character.  I just get this feeling that he never really grew, he just seemed to just fade into the background. Overall he made some really stupid mistakes. For someone who was a reporter, and as a person who was previously burned, he came across as dense, and if I am to be honest, he seemed lackluster, even at the end. I never connected to him at all, which is sad, because some of the story relied on the reader’s sympathy. I never seemed to get to that point.

Kara: Oh, I definitely agree he made some bad decisions. But then again, if he hadn’t made them we probably would have never gotten the fabulous scenes at The Peak. I can understand not connecting with him, because I really didn’t either. But to me this book wasn’t about the characters anyway. It was about the journey. The atmosphere, and most of all, the mystery of Cordova. So even though I didn’t necessarily connect with the characters, I realize they were just a vehicle to tell Cordova and Ashley’s story. To get to the truth.

Lyn: I really want to be able to put my finger on what kept me from enjoying the book. I thought the pace was a little slow at times. The start of the story was way more interesting that the rest of the ride. I don’t regret reading this book at all. I liked the pop culture portion of the novel. That was really wonderful.  I suppose another issue was why Scott was researching Ashley at all.

Kara: Because of their encounter at the Central Park Reservoir? Ashley in the red coat moving in and out of the streetlights? He thought back to his failed investigation of Cordova before and wondered why Ashley chose to come into his life at that point. And then when he found out she had committed suicide, he had to find out why.

Lyn: I suppose. It seemed like a huge stretch.

Kara: Hmm. I can’t say I feel that way at all. Journalists have a naturally inquisitive nature. Not to mention that at that time in his life he did not have much going on, so going on another adventure, especially one that had to do with Cordova, the story he never had been able to solve, makes sense to me. The man was an enigma to him. An unattainable goal that he had to try and reach again. Thats how I see it. He was a stubborn type-A, never-give-in type of person. Plus he felt that Cordova got one over on him from the last time. It was an ego thing too.

Lyn: I feel really crappy for not liking this more. I really do. 🙁 I gave it three stars! It wasn’t horrible!

Kara: Nah, it’s okay. Not everyone can like everything. Bekka wasn’t liking it either and she DNFed it. I am LOLing at you giving it 3 stars though because it really sounds like you liked it less than that. Don’t just rate it that highly because you feel bad if you really didn’t! I won’t be mad, I swear. 😀

Lyn: I gave it three stars because I loved the use of media in the novel. I also couldn’t put it down. That was the fastest I have read a 500+ page book. It was very addictive.

Kara: Now you are speaking my language. It really was. I remember the first time I read it, I was just stunned by everything I was reading and I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t find it terrifying but I was definitely creeped out and afraid to turn the page to see what would happen next. How did you feel about the ending? Any issues there?

Lyn: I have to admit I liked it. I like that it seemed like a dream. I also enjoyed that it was open ended, and you never really get the full picture. What happened? Was it a daydream? Did Scott ever make it out of the box? Did he lose his mind, and was he the one that ended up in the nursing home? I saw the incident with Sam like a breaking point for the story. I liked that, at this point, you could make an argument that it could have been real, and it could have been made up. That scene, and the writing after this point, seemed to go off in a new direction.

Kara: No, I definitely think it really happened. And I know how you like to think things are not what they seem (cough–haha) but I really do think he was just drugged by the greenhouse plants. I don’t think he was ever IN the boxes. I think the guy in the nursing home was just a random old guy the family paid off because I think Inez truly did mean to keep Scott from finding Cordova. I mean, look where the guy was living! He was truly off the radar. I think his work was always about his art and never about being a celebrity. Everything he did to remain mysterious was to keep his family out of the public eye. But the nature of his work kept people guessing and making them believe there was more going on than there actually was.

Lyn: The very last part of the book was very ambiguous. He speculated what would happen, but he never confirmed it.I really like how the novel ended, since Cordova’s own movies seem to lack a conclusion that was spelled out of the audience.

Kara: YASSSSS. That is one of the parallels I was thinking of when I mentioned them. The book ended like a Cordova movie! Which I didn’t notice the first time I read it. I was really disappointed by the ending then but now that I picked up on that, I LOVED it. And then I thought about all the other ways it could have ended, and to be honest, this was the only way that made sense.

Lyn: So I can conclude that it had some high points.

Kara: Of course. I kind of just wanted to squeeze your reasoning out of you. Now your rating makes more sense to me. 😀 I am going to go ahead and give it 4.5 stars. Last time I gave it a straight 5, but I am knocking off a half a star for some writing cliches. Scott’s sexism, for one. But also, I cannot STAND how the book opened with Scott looking in a mirror to describe his appearance. That is such an amateur way to describe someone’s looks. And to have it open that way? YUCK. I realize I am nitpicking, but I haven’t seen that in a book in a long time because most writers know NOT to make that amateur mistake. That said, it’s about all I can complain about.

Lyn: Well, thank you for introducing me to the story. It was a great study into dividing the voice of your characters.

Kara: Yeah, that’s true. They all really did have distinct and unique voices. I am happy you got something out of it, at least. I will go back to fangirling in my own corner. Haha!

Next we are reading Frostbite. It’s Bekkas pick, and I think I may be sitting that one out. I really was not a fan of the first book. How are you feeling going into it?

Lyn: I am really curious about the story. I loved that the book centered around a strong female friendship, so I want to continue reading. I give paranormal more leeway in the fall anyhow.

Kara: Good point. I am still deciding. Basically it depends on whether I can find the time. I have a blog tour coming up and I am soooo behind. GAH. Okay, until next time?

Lyn: Until then! Over and OUT.





4 responses to “Forgotten Fridays: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

  1. I really loved the way it opened too, Lyn. Using news articles as a way of avoiding info-dumping is kind of genius. And I’m so with you, Kara, on having a hard time understanding why people don’t like the book. I get all mentally whiny “But whhyyyyy it’s the BESSTTT!!!” Oh well. 🙂 I’ve read a lot of ambiguous ending novels but this one was one I remember liking the most. I wasn’t completely sold after finishing because my mind was boggled, truly, but I really like that kind of ending.. the ones that keep you thinking and really leave it up to you to come up with any and all possible answers. So glad to see that you at least enjoyed it (almost) as much the 2nd time around because it’s a favorite I definitely want to do a re-read of.
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