Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)

Somehow I had the impression that this movie was a lot cooler than it actually is. I can’t say exactly what I was expecting. Maybe some sort of epic, “Dazed and Confused” kind of music extravaganza with a talkie, Whit Stillman influence. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” does have some of those elements, but it is really more of a sweet, funny, but typical coming-of-age teen romance. Having said that, it’s a good movie as long as one’s expectations are appropriate.

Michael Cera (Nick) and Kat Dennings (Norah) are appropriately adorable as a couple of smart, hip teens who spend a night in New York City looking for an underground rock show and wind up finding love. At first I was put off by the unlikelihood of a high-schooler who looks like Michael Cera having dated one gorgeous girl (Alexis Dziena, as Nick’s ex-girl Tris ) and then hooking up with a babe like Kat Dennings, but it turns out that Nick plays in a band, so it makes more sense. (Note to teenage guys: Get into a band; seriously.) Nick is still hung up on that ex-girlfriend, who is frenemies with Norah. For her part, Norah feels she knows Nick a little from listening to the mix-cds he made for Tris. Norah is a stone fox, but she hangs out with pretty, shallow blondes, so she lacks confidence. It takes the pair all of a night out in NYC to work through all this.

From this movie and from a few snippets of “Gossip Girl,” I gather that New York City is full of orphans. (Actually, Nick and Norah seem to be from New Jersey. No parents there, either, apparently.) Call me sheltered if you will, but when I was a high-school senior I didn’t get to hop into a van with a couple of gay guys to go spend all night in a big city. I’m just sayin’. It’s fun watching these teens run around NYC having adventures with their friends and bandmates, but it‘s hard to identify.

Given this is a movie about people getting together over their shared musical taste, I was disappointed that “Nick and Norah” wasn’t more about the music. The soundtrack is full of cool, quirky, indy music, but it all just fades into the background of beautiful, funky people enjoying the beautiful, funky city. Compared to films like “Dazed and Confused” and “Empire Records,” “Nick and Norah” let me down in the music department.

Michael Cera is in no danger of losing his status as my go-to guy for smart comedy. The guy is really an amazing actor. He almost always has the same, blank expression on his face, but with just minute changes he is able to express volumes. I loved Kat Dennings in “The 40-year-old Virgin” and she acquits herself well here, showing that she can carry a leading role. Kudos also go to Ari Graynor, who plays a drunk girl perfectly and has a nice ass.

3.5 stars out of 5

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