Saturday 16 October 2010

Movie Review: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a teen romantic comedy that has a lot going for it, including two appealing leads in Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, and a vibe that welcomes moments of awkwardness and avoids over-saturation with fake irony.

New Jersey senior high school student Nick (Michael Cera) has long since been dumped by his cheating self-absorbed girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dzeina), but he is far from over her. He phones her and records long-winded messages that she automatically deletes, and he gifts her CD mixes of his favourite music, which she promptly tosses in the garbage. Down-to-earth classmate Norah (Kat Dennings) shares Nick's music taste and retrieves and enjoys his CDs once Tris discards them.

Nick plays bass in his otherwise all-gay band. Over one long and frantic night in New York that starts with a concert by Nick's band and ends early the next morning with a concert by the hip but elusive band Where's Fluffy, a romance finally ignites between Nick and Norah, as he finally gets over Tris and she fends off a creepy "friend with benefits".

Complementing Cera and Dennings, the third star of the movie is New York City at night. Director Peter Sollett avoids most cinematic cliches and captures a city that never sleeps in all its quirkiness, focusing on tiny corner restaurants, ethnic groceries, grimy bus depots, and clubs half-full of people not sure why they are there.

The movie does not fully avoid all the genre's cliches, and after a most tender off-camera orgasm is enjoyed by Norah, there is an unnecessary confrontation between Nick, Norah and their exes as the film appears to muddle the sequence of its concluding scenes to contrive some needless conflict.

But in general, the movie hits most of the right notes, and there is enough going on around the blossoming romance to add welcome texture to the film. Norah's friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) is drunk about 15 minutes into the movie, and spends her night staggering through New York creating her own natural disaster, including some terrific moments involving her chewing gum and a toilet seat. The search for the mysterious Where's Fluffy is a useful plot device to emphasize the focus on music and keep everyone racing around New York. And Nick's yellow Yugo, mistaken for a taxi to great effect, is an extra character in the film, as is the lumbering van used by Nick's band.

In a genre too often beset by yawning predictability, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist offers some refreshingly original tunes.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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