Review | Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Okay, so this is a first. A movie review. On a guitar blog. Well I supposed I just had to have my say about this little Apollo Diamond of a film.  The film features Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, two perfect for each other, indie scene buffs who over the course of a night, find closure in their previous relationships, fall in love, find their favourite band and romp around town in a yellow Yugo.  A sideplot involving a drunk friend, some gay friends and chewing gum.

I found the film to have a certain shine on first viewing. The slightly hesitant romance between Cera and Dennings with shades of endearing, real life awkwardness. This is highlighted by the great indie soundtrackfeaturing Vampire Weekend’s Ottoman & Middle Management by Bishop Allen who make a live appearance. Various intelligent lines “I love you so much it’s retarded” & “If anyone is going to be raped in the van, it’s going to be a man” add sparkle to the terse script. 

So I watched it again. Now I almost wish I hadn’t. It’s kinda like finding out what you got for Christmas after trying to feel through the wrapping. At first it kinda feels like a key to a car but when you rip off the shiny paper, it’s actually a keychain. Close, but no cookie.

The tension in the hesitant romance is created through the previous relationship baggage the two carry around with them- Norah has Tal, a sometime rocker boyfriend clearly using her to push his band’s album. Nick has his ex, a cardboard cutout beautiful but emotionally devious minx played by Alexis Dziena.  Both are so hopelessly stereotypical that I half-expected them to be credited plot device #1 and #2.

Having said that, the other supporting roles/ plot elements are superb. Norah’s friend Caroline has her own little adventure of mind numbing realism when drunk, she gets lost in New York.  Nick’s sideplot is being a bandmember in the gaycore group “The Jerkoffs” and Norah has a celebrity music industry father.

The gay bandmembers prove to be freshingly non-stereotypical and helps quicken the pace when it begins to slacken. Norah’s father remains a background figure but his music studio produces an heartbreakingly delicate and tender off-screen scene of er, physical contact between the lovers.

Delicate and tender however, the dialogue is not. It feels much like the thought bubbles of 30 something scriptwriters coming to life throughout the film. So, I much agree with Tom Huddleston’s view that the dialogue resembles “middle-aged music journalists”. The occasional zings aren’t really quite enough to bring it to life.Tim Robey of the Telegraph thought the plot resembles Before Sunrise, in that it unfolds in a limited time period. Alas, Before Sunrise was an introspective, quiet movie enveloped within the world of twos. The conversations, observations and verbal jousts are well crafted and natural.

Interestingly, director Peter Sollett’s most effective tools appear to be off screen action/plot. The quest to find Fluffy, an uber-cool but secretive band underlies the whole movie, the scene in the recording studio being just two examples. The elements which he tries to emphasize come across as a little too forced, too contrived.

So, Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist maybe just one of those films I would recommend friends to watch if they’s already exhausted their A+ list of films. My rating? B+. Okay, I’ll be more generous because it’s a great effort, the soundtrack is outstanding and it just needs to ease up a little: final rating: A minus.

(Ah yes, if you do feel compelled to buy the movie or the soundtrack, just click the amazon links below and even though you’ll pay the same price, we’ll get a little something which goes directly into funding the website!)


C.TTAN 2009