This review is probably going to be on the controversial side, but I found Night Film very racist, transphobic, and sexist. Some of the dialogue was so problematic for me that I had to take constant breaks. I even had to use a reward system to just finish this book.
I know many of my friends, who I respect and love, gave this five stars. Some even claimed it was their favorite read of 2015. I’m happy for them, and I’m happy a book brought them so much joy. That’s the beauty of reading: everyone is going to read, interpret, and feel different. I will always respect their feelings, and I hope people can respect mine.
Night Film is about an investigative journalist, Scott, who is pretty obsessed with a film maker, Cordova, and his cult following. In his past, Scott tried to write a story and uncover some dirt on Cordova, but ended up getting sued and having a really detrimental impact on his career.
Now, Cordova’s daughter, who is only twenty-four, has committed suicide. Scott finds himself unable to stay away, and starts a new investigation on Cordova, and this time he has two unconventional helpers.
This book feels really linear. Like, Scott and his new sidekicks going to one person after another person, just interviewing them and getting information that will eventually lead them to another person. This very much was a crime detective read, with very little action. We got many short, little bursts, that felt very repetitive, and the eventual big bang fell very short.
Also, we’d constantly be told how hard whatever information we were trying to get would be to get, but every freaking person Scott talked to would just sing their life story with Cordova. I mean, how lucky can this white man get?
There are paranormal elements in this book, and I wasn’t expecting it, and I was actually really enjoying it, but with the ending of this book, it leaves a lot to wonder about.
This book has a lot of multimedia in it, which makes the book feel very real, because it is very interactive. You are able to read the news articles and web pages (which were pretty cringe-worthy at times, I’m not going to lie,) see some evidence, crime reports, and pictures, and so on and so forth. This is a really cool concept that I haven’t seen too many authors do, but I feel like it does make it a more enjoyable reading experience.
These elements make the book longer, too. And, Good Lord, it felt long to me. Normally a 550 page books takes me a few days to read, especially with multimedia elements, but this book too me all of October to read, and then I finally had to bribe myself to finish it early November.
Basically, this was a rough read for me because Scott, the main protagonist of this thriller, is sexist, racist and transphobic. He shows the signs of this everywhere (look, I can use italics just like the author does constantly.) He judges the PoC, and the PoC’s only purpose throughout this book is to help the main, white, privileged main character.
To explain some of my feelings, I’m going to have to state some SPOILERS! Please, do not continue on with this review if you have not read this book, because you will be spoiled.
Maybe I’m being harsh, but these constant, problematic themes became really apparent to me:
– Stereotypical Hispanic hotel maid, while Scott was getting information.
– Cordova’s Hispanic right hand woman, Inez, who drove from Mexico a lot, therefore, she had to be a human trafficker.
-The black taxi-driver that had gold teeth and purposely drove around to take more of Scott’s money (which he throws around, constantly). Also, I think this might be the only black representation in this very white book.
– When Scott talks with a Chinese business owner, he makes inner-monologue comments about his “long forehead” and his “Great Wall” flip-flops. Like, what the hell am I reading?
– Orlando, another PoC who was written stereotypical and overweight, dies because a white main character didn’t want him to tag along, so the only way he knew how to get rid of him was to… be emotional abusive and mean, to the point where Orlando kills himself. Get the fuck out of here with this trash writing. This plot point made me the angriest of the whole book.
– How bitter Scott is about his ex-wife leaving him, and his constant remarks on her looks. How he wished, by now, she would be not as good looking, and other things of that nature. You know, because not having a good looking wife anymore hurts him more than literally any other aspect of not being in a relationship with a woman you’ve known over half your life and have a child with. Looks > anything.
– Scott’s feelings when he goes to the night club, and realizes the attractive women were actually once men. He’s very disrespectful, and starts judging them, and starts saying “he” as their pronouns. He couldn’t wrap his head about a BDSM club or the fact some “successful men torture themselves for fun.” It’s double funny, because, at the beginning of this book, he talks about a sexual partner of his that was so boring, because the girl didn’t speak.
– How the 19 year female sidekick, who is constantly written as unintelligent, couldn’t resist the 43 year old main characters, because…. reasons? There was no build up, nothing, just one night she decided to confess her love for him and offer herself to him.
Scott is gross, and so is his male sidekick. He’s not unlikable in the way of “oh, he’s supposed to be unlikable.” He’s unlikable in the way of “oh, he’s a racist who can’t see past his privilege.” Like, this book really highlights white, able-bodied, male privilege. And maybe I’m the only one that couldn’t look away, but it was painful for me to read. Scott being problematic was way scarier than the mystery surrounding Ashley could ever wish to be.
This book was disappointing, over-hyped, and left a terrible taste in my mouth.
9 thoughts on “Night Film by Marisha Pessl”
Thank you for talking about this! I’ve not read it, but my friend showed me several passages that had her disgusted with this book, and I can safely say I’m never going to pick it up after both you and her reviewing it.
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