NIGHT FILM Is a Sovereign. Deadly. Perfect. Read.

Pessl_Night-FilmMarisha Pessl’s buzzed about second novel Night Film is a fantastic read for both literary lovers and film fanatics. Stanislas Cordova is a revered horror filmmaker, capturing the bleakest aspects of the human experience. When his daughter Ashley seemingly commits suicide, investigative reporter Scott McGrath is eager to prove that it was actually related to the sinister Cordova (who had disgraced him in the press previously). So begins a complex hunt into the dark world of Cordova’s night films and his family history.
Pessl incorporates mixed media articles into the pages (although not as extensively as J.J. Abrams does in S.), allowing you to really feel like your investigating this death along with McGrath. It also gives a striking verisimilitude to the story, which is further enhanced by the complex and exact descriptions of Cordova’s films that are interspersed throughout the novel. (How long until some of these night films are actually made?)
Suspense is the name of the game in Night Film, and the book nearly oozes it. By the time you reach McGrath’s stunning climactic mission into discovering Cordova’s secrets, you’ll be so engrossed in the story that you will have to read it with all the lights on (lest you be frightened by the shadows in your own room). And just when you think Pessl has lost all grasp of reality, she pulls out a few more twists to keep you questioning the story until the very end.
Night Film will keep you up into the early morning hours and then haunt your dreams whenever you finally put it down to sleep.


Millennials Will Be Drawn to WHATEVER THIS IS

fdd74fd5b92ebbca19a3955b37f6aa6c_largeAdam Goldman’s follow-up to his (hit?—it’s certainly got a following in NYC) webseries The Outs is the equally bleak series Whatever this is. Instead of following the intense break-up of a couple, this series tackles a more expansive look at what living in NYC is like, especially for those penniless millennials. Based on the first episode (which you can watch here), Whatever this is seems to be an entertaining series guaranteed to capture the struggle of making it in NYC—without all that privilege that the cast of Girls flaunts.

Speaking of Girls, the female lead Lisa (played by Madeline Wise) comes off as a hard-up Marnie, struggling in a state of poverty she’s uncomfortable with but desperate to appear as a kind person. Her equally hard-up boyfriend Sam (Hunter Canning) works as a PA with fellow friend and roommate Ari (Dylan Marron) to help pay the rent—they have a jar of cash to calculate how close they are to the monthly payment. Whatever this is follows this trio as they navigate the ofttimes cutthroat world of NYC.

With a heterosexual couple at the center, Ari comes off as the cliché GBF. His role seems to exist solely as an enticement to fans of The Outs. That is, until his confessional monologue to a wasted “Real Housewife” emphasizes that he’ll be an equally well-developed character. He also reveals an interesting fact about one of his roommates, adding some emotional mystery to the other characters.

Goldman’s tone here is more comedic than The Outs, but it doesn’t lose any of its bleak outlook on life. However, his “playwright style of writing” proves much more awkward in this series. A scene between the three roommates and friends feels like a terse recital of Neil LaBute dialogue instead of a natural interaction between friends. Goldman’s intensity, which worked for The Outs, doesn’t translate to this “lighter” drama.

Fans of The Outs will certainly revel in the differences between The Outs and Whatever this is. Sasha Winters plays a fellow PA who delivers one or two snarky comments (one can only hope that she’ll play a larger a role in the upcoming episodes). Beloved Scruffy (Tommy Heleringer) also plays a fellow PA—this time he’s clean-shaven—in a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo (Spoiler Alert: previews of the rest of the series—and his inclusion in the publicity photos—imply that he’ll reappear in a greater capacity). And, in amusing contrast, Canning sports some of the scruff that Heleringer now lacks, adding to his heterosexual look that’s perfected by his white ankle socks and cargo shorts. Playing against their previous types seems almost too obvious an acting choice, but the actors are very capable in these roles.

Having only seen the first episode, this series feels unsure of what it wants to be; but paired with the preview of the rest of the series, you can rest assured that intriguing drama will follow (and another cameo by Alan Cumming). Yet that unsurety of tone drives home Goldman’s message of how disappointment and desperation fuels this generation’s struggle in unfulfilling jobs as they strive for success.

[As of this posting, the kickstarter for this series is still accepting pledges. And if you pledge $30 or more you can get a download of The Outs!]

You Should “Maybe” Read Lauren Graham’s Novel “Someday”

I’m sure you’re familiar with actress Lauren Graham—you know, from Gilmore Girls and Parenthood—but did you know she wrote a novel? Someday, Someday, Maybe is in the same vein as Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing: a look at the world of film & television from a newcomer’s perspective. But, whereas Weiner’s novel is a thinly-veiled account of her recent attempts to helm a TV show, Graham’s is just a predictable account of a struggling actress in NYC in 1995.

16071745Franny Banks (named after the eponymous J.D. Salinger character) has a deadline of six more months to “make it” in acting. While she’s not sure what exactly that constitutes, she doesn’t want to end up one of those failed actresses who doesn’t know when to quit. She lives in Brooklyn with best friend Jane who works as a PA and quiet, tall Dan who’s diligently penning a sci-fi screenplay. Through her acting class she lands an agent who helps her get into auditions and meets handsome, charming, up-and-coming actor James. From there builds an obvious love triangle and obvious career arc as Graham explores those six months of Franny’s life.

Despite of all its frustrating predictabilities, Graham remains an amusing writer. Franny’s sense of humor, expressed in the first person, is funny enough to elicit many laughs even when she overthinks most moments with frustrating tedium. And Graham’s reflections on life in NYC in the 90s is amusing as well, although it does make the story feel especially outdated. I would like to see Graham attempt a more contemporary and original story instead of this unnecessary retread of chick lit tropes.

I really wanted to love this novel (she even incorporates lyrics to one of my favorite Sondheim songs), which is what makes its mediocrity so much more disappointing.