When I first saw it back in January I was really taken with Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. A film I only went to see because there was nothing else out that looked better that I hadn’t already seen, I was really pleasantly surprised. What I expected to be a typical teen comedy was far more engaging and entertaining. As it came out before I started my blog the most I have had to say about it so far was a couple of paragraphs on facebook that I duplicated in an early blog, so as I have just seen it again on DVD it seems like a good time to review it.
Set in New York over a single night and staring Nick (Michael Cera) as a student who is trying to get over his break-up with Tris (Alexis Dziena), the girl who has left him heartbroken. In truth, he has no intention of getting over her, he is too busy wallowing in self pity. He spends his time burning mix CD’s for Tris (he is up to 12 since the break-up). What he doesn’t realise is that she has being disposing of them un-played . What he also doesn’t know is that Tris’s school “friend” Norah (Kat Dennings) has been listening to the CD’s and is infatuated with Nick despite the fact they have never met.
A somewhat contrived series of events leads to Nick and Norah meeting in New York bar where Nick’s band is playing. Nick is the only straight member of the “queercore” band The Jerk-Offs who are a drummer short of being a good. Once together Nick and Norah try to find the secret venue where there favourite band “Where’s Fluffy” will be playing. There are subplots involving Nicks band mates losing Norah’s drunk fried Caroline (Ari Graynor) as well as meetings with Tirs and Norah’s ex Tal (Jay Baruchel).
The reasons the film works so well are multiple. The story is simple and believable and the scenarios are completing. More importantly the casting and acting is great. Michael Cera plays the awkward geeky teen better than anyone (with the possible exception of Jesse Eisenberg) as proved by his performance in Juno. I haven’t made my mind up about Kat Dennings acting ability yet but she is totally adorable and perfectly cast in this film. There is also a great supporting cast including the aforementioned Alexis Dziena and Ari Graynor as well as Rafi Gavron and Aaron Yoo as Nicks band mates and Jonathan Bradford Wright as the guy the pickup along the way.
With his lack of fashionable cloths and seriously crap Yugo for a car Nick defines himself by his taste in music this is demonstrated in his mix CD’s, the, music on his Ipod and his ring tone (“Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure). That in itself is actually sort of the point of the film, in a Facebook/My Space/YouTube world where everyone knows so much about each other, the idea of “what we like” being more important than “what we are like” that was explored in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity becomes more interesting. More than coincidence, it is actually taste in music that brings Nick and Norah together. To back this up the film needs a great soundtrack, and it doesn’t disappoint with “of the moment” bands including Vampire Weekend and We Are Scientists providing the music.
The only real problem with the film is Nicks & Norah’s respective ex’s Tris and Tal. Firstly Nick and Tris are so different, it is hard to see what they first saw in each other. Secondly she is a complete vacuous selfish bitch who cheated on Nick all the time they were together. Even with a “love is blind” mentality it is hard to see how they lasted six months. Tal is no better, a singer with limited talent who appears to only be with Norah in the hope she will help him out with her famous record producer farther. However these characters are essential to the plot, the fact that Tris and Tal are so unworthy of Nick and Norah is the crux of the film as demonstrated in key scenes when our protagonists realise this, long after their friends and us viewers!
This is could be one of the first film of a new subgenre or a redefinition of the coming of age/romantic comedy drama. It plays well alongside other recent films such as Adventureland, (500) Days of Summer and Zombieland (yes I really did say Zombieland!). Having said that it’s spiritual forefather is probably more like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, a romantic comedy for film lovers who hate romantic comedies; in other words me!