Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, 2008.
Directed by Peter Sollett.
Starring Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor and Alexis Dziena.
During one night in New York City searching for a band, both Nick and Norah discover so much more.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is at times painfully hip, naively romantic, and ultimately utterly predictable. The film depicts a New York City where young adults safely roam in search of gigs and love, where a boy and girl can meet and fall for each other in the course of one night, and where lost friends are found safe and sound. It’s a breezy ninety minute flick that provides a remarkably easy watch, and sometimes that’s all you need.
The music-hungry teen audience who love nothing more than to bop along to the latest indie band sensation are this film’s bread and butter, and those perhaps a little older and wearier may roll their eyes at the earnest antics of Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings). This is a film enthused with the lustful joys of youth, and there’s no place for bitter cynics here. It’s a life-affirming tale for teenagers about teenagers, where everything doesn’t suck, parents aren’t around to cast a watchful eye, and fun can be had without alcohol and drugs. All you need is good company and good music.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist opens as an unmistakable Michael Cera movie – he’s an awkward guy longing for love nursing a broken heart. It’s his George Michael role from Arrested Development (2003-2006) grown up a bit, or an alcohol-free version of Evan from Superbad (2007), or perhaps a less athletic Paulie Bleeker from Juno (2007). From the opening moments you know what to expect, and Michael Cera is perfectly adequate in the all-too familiar role. Here, Nick has recently been dumped by Tris (Alexis Dziena), a stereotype of the sort of girl guys supposedly want but should never actually have.
The film quickly sets up the events that are to come – Nick and his otherwise all gay band The Jerk-Offs are playing a gig in New York City. A band named Where’s Fluffy? – known for playing unannounced secret shows – are also rumoured to be playing somewhere in the city that night. Norah and friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) also head into the city for a night of music and a chance to catch Where’s Fluffy? Unsurprisingly, the paths of Nick and Norah cross and the two embark on a night that they’ll most likely never forget.
There are jumps in narrative logic within Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist that are perhaps better explained in the novel penned by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I haven’t read it so I wouldn’t know. However, the two characters seem to fall for each other awfully fast over little more than a shared passion for the same bands. It seems like a flimsy start to base a relationship upon, and the film would have benefited from more character development between the two. That said, it is still an undeniably cute story.
Kat Dennings deserves special mention. She brings real humanity to the story and is utterly believable throughout, at times carrying entire scenes single-handedly. Her comedic timing is also spectacular, and she’s refreshingly funny without hogging the limelight. She’s certainly one to keep an eye on, for she has a very promising career ahead of her.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist doesn’t exactly break the rules of rom-coms. Similar and better films have emerged since, such as (500) Days of Summer (2009) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), but what we have here is a simple lovely little story that should leave anyone with even the slightest romantic inclination smiling. The soundtrack isn’t bad either – even if it is mostly made up of bands you’ve never heard of.