Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena. Rated PG-13.
The best thing that can be said
for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
is that it knows its audience.
If that sounds like faint praise,
let me explain. Teenagers in movies often fall into one of two categories:
sex-crazed dopes who wind up at a wild keg party or sex-crazed dopes who wind
up on the business end of a lunatic’s machete. Rare is the movie that bothers
to speak their language, show some compassion for their follies and give them
futures not involving the morgue or Stifler’s mom.
Nick and Norah does all those things,
and does them very, very well.
Clearly, director Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas) has great affection for his
characters, and it’s not hard
to understand why. Nick and Norah are appealing people who share an instant,
unmistakable attraction rooted partly in their passion for the same bands and
partly in something less tangible. Let’s call it chemistry.
They’re smart enough to realize
that this is just the starting point, so they decide to get to know each other
during a calamity-laden night of club-hopping in Manhattan. Norah (Kat
Dennings, of The 40-Year-Old Virgin)
crashes Nick’s “vintage” Yugo. Nick (Michael Cera) talks about his
teen-princess ex until it’s painfully clear he’s still carrying a torch. Things
fall apart in short order, and though reconciliation is in the offing, Lorene
Scafaria’s script, adapted from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan,
never hits a false note on its way there.
That’s mostly because Nick and
Norah exists in a universe most people
will recognize, and I’m not referring to the East Village. There are no car
chases, close encounters with neanderthal cops, or any of the other
depressingly familiar scenarios that tend to play out when scripts call for a wild
and crazy night. There are no mawkish moments of male bonding, in the Judd
Apatow vein. When Nick talks with his gay best friends, whose sexuality is
incidental and never treated as a gimmick, they speak like reasonable adults
thrust into unreasonable but wholly plausible predicaments.
Nick and Norah will invariably draw
comparisons with Juno, if only because it has been marketed in a transparently
similar manner, and because both movies star Michael Cera. The difference? Nick
and Norah has an ear for dialogue that
doesn’t sound oh-so-cleverly contrived. It’s just as sweet – disarmingly so,
without seeming saccharine – but it feels genuine. The best love stories always