Like most people, I primarily go to the movies to be entertained. All I ask for is to be amused, moved, thrilled or challenged for a couple hours, and if a film succeeds in doing one of those things I leave the theater with my expectations met. Though I'll happily settle for entertainment, deep down I'm always hoping to find a film that speaks to me like no other. We've all had that experience where we're watching a movie and feel as though everyone involved in the production reached directly into our brains, yanked out our innermost thoughts, and somehow splashed them across a screen for millions of people to see. It's a rare experience, but the few films that offer such insight need to be cherished and championed, even if they'll only speak to a certain segment of the audience. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
is just such a film. It's a touching, funny, romantic, whip-smart tale that will appeal to anyone who still believes that one night can change your entire life.
As the film begins, Nick (Michael Cera
), the only straight member of a queercore band called The Jerk-Offs, is dealing with being dumped by his school's resident Mean Girl, Tris (Alexis Dziena
). His gay pals are determined to help him get over his bitchy ex, and things take a turn toward the fateful when Norah (Kat Dennings
) asks him to be her boyfriend for five minutes after a gig. The duo share a kiss that's intended to make Tris jealous, but after the awkward lip-lock they soon find they have more in common than they expected. As Nick and Norah drive around New York City in his beat up old Yugo searching for a mysterious band called Where's Fluffy, the duo experience a variety of misadventures, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. While bonding over their love of music and their shared heartache, Nick and Norah stumble into their own love story without even realizing it.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
tapped into my deep love of movies that tell an entire story over the course of one night. This film is right up there with memorable comedy classics like Can't Hardly Wait
, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
and Adventures in Babysitting
. It may not be plausible that Nick and Norah run into so many crazy situations in the course of one evening, but it's pointless to nitpick the realism when the journey itself is so much fun.
The film wouldn't work at all if not for the chemistry between the two leads, and both Cera and Dennings do a fantastic job at portraying the thrilling highs and brutal lows of teenage romance. Cera rolls out the same lovelorn, low-key shtick he pulled off in Juno
and Arrested Development
, but that's not a bad thing. I'd like to see the actor break away from his usual persona eventually, but he's so good at what he does that it's hard to complain about it. As for Dennings, she's a sarcastic, deadpan delight as Norah. She can barely contain her anger as Nick pines over Tris for much of the movie, and while some actresses would come across as mopey, Dennings makes Norah's pain palpable. You can't help but spend the entire movie waiting for Nick to wake up and notice the great girl riding along in his passenger seat.
Director Peter Sollett, who previously helmed the 2002 indie Raising Victor Vargas
, has crafted a film that's a love letter to music, New York City and the joys of young love. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment is populating Nick and Norah's world with such memorable supporting characters. Norah's drunken friend Caroline, played by Ari Graynor, figures heavily into the plot, and Graynor imbues her with a fearlessness that's both shocking and hilarious. However, Sollett's greatest feat is bringing to life Nick's trio of gay friends, who are allowed to be flirty, independent, and more than stereotypical gay sidekicks. The film is progressive in the way it portrays homosexuality as just another normal aspect of high school life. By refusing to make an issue out of sexuality, the film speaks volumes about how far gay-straight relations have come over the years.
Those who see Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
and feel a connection to the film's romantic spirit should check out the original novel, written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. It's a different animal, but equally clever and moving. The screenplay by Lorene Scafaria rips some scenes and bits of dialogue directly from the book, but throws in a lot more plot to keep the film chugging along.
I'm not a huge music fan, and I can't remember the last time I had a night filled with wacky misadventures and blossoming romance. Even so, the story of Nick, Norah, and their crazy group of friends truly spoke to the part of me that will forever be a teenager. It's a film about possibilities. All you have to do is leave yourself open to them, and you might come to believe that absolutely anything can happen in the span of one night.
- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of Columbia/Sony Pictures)