Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Not much to say really, but this is Rob Bender’s second review for The Popcorn Bucket. So, let’s all sit down, put our hands in our laps and listen quietly.

Ben

I saw this on the same day as (500) Days of Summer, and there are a few similarities. Hopefully I have let enough time pass in order to judge this by its own merits.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)


Does anyone remember watching Roswell? I was quite a big fan, and have watched the three series a few times. In the third season there is an episode that centres around the search for an elusive New Years’ Eve party, by following very obscure clues. It was one of the worst episodes of the whole programme. This is relevant, because this ‘search for a party’ plotline is the driving force of Nick & Norah. Nick O’Leary (Michael Cera) and Norah Silverberg (Kat Dennings) do not know each other, but are both huge fans of a band called ‘Where’s Fluffy?’, a band who occasionally play incredibly elusive gigs, leaving clues for their fans to find (vaguely reminiscent of the days of Guerrilla Gigging of the early 2000s (see: The Libertines). Nick is recently dumped by Tris (Alexis Dziena), a girl who goes to the same private school as Norah. Nick and Norah meet by chance at a gig in which Nick’s band is playing, and momentarily pose as a couple. Nick’s bandmates decide that she is ‘the one’ for him, and set them off to find ‘Where’s Fluffy?’ together, whilst they look after Norah’s drunk friend. Even though Nick is pining for his ex. The film takes place over the course of an evening, with Nick and Norah’s search for the band sometimes crossing with their friends, and ex-partners.

“Also that mix CD… uh that I left on your doorstep was the last one that I’ll be making for you. More or less…”

A danger with this type of film is that the supporting characters are relegated to making occasional quips, rarely emerging from the background. In Nick & Norah, most of the friends (and exes) have quite a bit of screentime, and the film is better for it. The film has been praised for its portrayal of gay characters (both Nick’s bandmates are gay), as they don’t fit the generally accepted stereotype. Being as the film is set over one night, and does sometimes seem to move at quite a quick pace, it is an achievement that all the characters get something to do.

“You don’t have to yell. It’s not a train station. We’re in a tiny car.”

There are also quite a few side storylines, most of which are quite funny. The ‘chewing gum’ plot whilst generally disgusting (and in one instance, vomit-inducing), is quite funny, as is the awful yellow car that Nick drives. These do add more to the overall story, showing that it is not just about Nick and Norah and as previously mentioned, giving other characters screentime. However, I feel it really could have done without the ‘orgasm’ sideline, which seems rather pointless, and doesn’t add anything at all to the story. Equally, I’m not entirely sure why it is an ‘Infinite Playlist’. Aside from the elusive ‘Fluffy?’, there is not too much made of music.

“Well, you’re two penises short of a Shania Twain reimagination band!”

This leads me to my biggest gripe with the whole movie. Michael Cera. Before watching this, I had no feelings on him either way, and I think sums up my problem. I really like Juno, and he suited the role in that. The same for Superbad, he acted well as the straight man to the comedy of Jonah Hill. In those films, he wasn’t the main character, and reacted to the comedic situation around him, like Martin Freeman in The Office, or Mathew Horne in Gavin and Stacey (which I love) and anything with Catherine Tate. Cera is a very similar character (wet and incredibly awkward) in Nick & Norah, and it isn’t enough to carry the whole film. His proclamations of love for his ex sound wimpy, and his claim to be the biggest fan of ‘Fluffy?’ are irritating, and sound like the ‘I liked this band first’ nerdy whingeing of a playground. Having said that, the other characters are well acted, and Dennings carries off the fact that the character is meant to be rich, and is used to it without being incredibly stuck up. Nick’s bandmates are also very good characters.

“You look gorgeous. And let me tell you something, Nicky is definitely worth the underwire. He just needs a little push, that’s all.”

Nick & Norah is quite a nice film, although perhaps lacking in the emotional investment of other examples. The main plot is fairly generic, although I do like (most of) the side plotlines, which do make it a better film. The supporting characters are well written and well acted, yet the whole idea of ‘Where’s Fluffy?’ isn’t as well executed as the ‘chewing gum’ plot; there is never really much excitement evoked from the viewer for the elusive band. A nice, gentle film, yet perhaps not as hip and indie (hipindie?) as it maybe thinks it is.

RB

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