James Knows…Movies: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)
It’s my opinion that Michael Cera can do no wrong. He caught my attention with Arrested Development and since then has just been a consistent awkward ball of hilarity through every appearance he’s made. Unfortunately even his penchant for uncomfortable moments couldn’t save Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Based on the book of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the film takes a look at one night in the lives of Nick and Norah as they’re thrown together and they obviously are meant to be. But will they or won’t they?
Nick (Cera) is a soft-spoken guitarist in a band with a couple of gay kids. Norah (Kat Dennings) is the cynical daughter of a major recording studio owner. They run into each other at a gig for Nick’s band, but Nick is still hung up on ex-girlfriend Triss (Alexis Dziena) who is with new guy Gary (Zachary Booth) and Norah is concerned about her drunk friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) and gets in touch with on-again / off-again boyfriend Tal (Jay Baruchel) and who’s that guy that’s following the band around? Throw all these characters together in the night life of New York City and a mediocre soundtrack and you’ll have a movie that teens will flock to…right?
Not really. I feel that Nick & Norah fell quite short. It’s like the studio tried to cash in on the success of Juno so they took the film and cut out all that crap about teen pregnancy along with a soundtrack that pales in comparison and you’ve basically got Nick & Norah. There’s even that weird intro that’s got the shaky pencil animation. Can you be any more of a copy?
Another problem that the film runs into is the metaphorical characters. You’ve heard the saying that the city becomes a character or the music becomes a character. Nick & Norah tries to make characters out of New York City and it’s 5 boroughs and the music that pulls these characters together. That’s a problem. In my opinion, you can’t have more than one non-character. You get the city or you get the tunes. You don’t get both. Trying to do more than one is a pain in the ass and I’m sure it’s a challenge for even the most talented filmmakers. That kind of talent does not exist here.
While Cera is brilliant as always, Dennings could use a bit more work. I know that her character is supposed to be this sort of sarcastic bitch, but it felt like she was just phoning in a lot of her scenes. Even though the film is about those two, Nick’s two gay band partners, Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) steal 90% of the scenes they’re in. Whether it’s explaining to Norah why he’s perfect for Nick or explaining the simplicities of holding hands to Nick, the pair is just great. They’re really looking out for Nick and it’s a little sweet to see just how much they care about him.
The movie isn’t all bad though. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, but the plot is rather predictable once things get going. It’s almost like a younger version of 200 Cigarettes with the whole “all in one night” aspect of it. It’s worth seeing if only for Cera’s performance because goddamnit, he’s hilarious.