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Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2009) Director Peter Sollett 5 February 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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The movie with the worst title of the month hit screens this week but despite the embarrassing name and the prospect of Michael Cera playing exactly the same character he has in everything so far (from Arrested Development to Juno), Nick and Norah proves to be the perfect antidote to the awards season overdose of self aggrandising ‘important’ films like Milk, Revolutionary Road and The Reader.

Like I said Cera plays Nick (who might as well be called Paulie Bleaker or Evan for all the similarities to those characters) who has been dumped by his long term girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) and is up to volume 12 of the break up compilation CDs he has been giving her when the film opens. Needless to say heartless Tris puts these CDs straight in the bin where Norah (Kat Dennings from The 40-yr Old Virgin) retrieves them, appreciating Nicks mutual taste in music and falling for him despite never actually having seen him. Nick is a member of a gay band called ‘The Jerk Offs’ and it is at one of their gigs that Nick and Norah are finally pushed together in admittedly tenuous circumstances, but it makes you smile if you go along with the fairy tale fell of it all.

The two of them are out in New York particularly late on this night to try and find cult band Where’s Fluffy? Presumably the equivalent of if The Beatles had played secret gigs back in their heyday. It’s a plot device purely to keep them out on the streets so late (as is the disappearance of Norah’s extremely drunk friend Caroline) but it works. The film is admittedly light on story, the main dramatic tension being whether Nick and Norah will ever get together in spite of their exes (Tris and Jay Baruchel as Tal) clinging on to them for their own selfish reasons. We are never left in any doubt it will all work out, but that’s not the point of these films. Nick and Norah will keep you smiling throughout (apart from a disgusting and misplaced subplot involving a piece of gum that feels more like it belongs in a Farrelly Brothers movie) while its whimsical and quirky style will leave you either in love with New York or with an intense hatred of its ‘hip’ pretenses.

It’s all standard Cera stuff here, quirky, awkward interactions with females and with that bizarre face which looks like a cross between a melon and an orc from Lord of the Rings. Kat Dennings is brilliant as Norah, again playing that social outcast with a heart of gold role really well, especially compared to ice cold and two faced Tris, but I can see people finding her performance irritating and I had a few people tell me they couldn’t stand her constant bitching. The real standouts however are the friends. Rafi Gavron (first seen in the late Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering) is hilarious as Nick’s gay friend Dev and along with Thom and their Beefy friend (his name is reveled late in the film so I won’t spoil it for you) they are perhaps the first non-stereotypical presentation of homosexuals on film I have ever seen. Ari Graynor is also outstanding as Norah’s wasted friend Caroline. Her portrayal of a young girl so much out of it she is no longer aware of where or even who she is is scarily authentic and brought up a lot of good (or should that be bad?) memories.

The film’s quirky style is not going to be to everyone’s taste but what the film does have gong for it is one of the best soundtracks this year. It’s to be expected for a film with ‘playlist‘ in its title but if you are a fan of this kind of music you will be in heaven in Nick and Norah. The songs all perfectly complement the action onscreen, and in most cases give an extra level of depth you certainly wouldn’t have had without. The only problem is if you’re not a particularly big fan of the i-pod generations choice of hip choonage there’s a risk you could spend the vast majority of the film wishing you were in The Reader instead. Needless to say though if you liked Cera’s previous efforts and films like Almost Famous or Empire Records you will love Nick and Norah’s innocent journey into the night. The Cera schtick is getting a little thin now though.

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