Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist [***1/2]
We’ve all been there before: admonishing never again until the next time. Nick (Michael Cera) is making an ill advised phone call to his ex-girlfriend Triss explaing why he isn’t at school, his reasons are multiple, flimsy and he’s making one last mix CD for her. It’s desperate but standard until you see him against the wall as he makes his afternoon phone call, his cheek nestled against a picture of his ex on a collage that adorns his wall. The viewer won’t know it at the time, but the journey of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” will be better than its trailer lets on. I like Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, I think this movie is miles better than “Charlie Bartlett” and I think this film like “Superbad” deftly handles teenage insecurity, so the question is: why the fuck didn’t I see this thing until tonight? Sadly, I don’t have an answer.
A movie about two strangers who kiss, fight, search for one’s drunken friend who has run off under the mistaken impression that she has been kidnapped amidst an all night quest to find a band’s secret show seems like it would be some light fluffy fun (and it can be), but it never is just any of those things. Cera and Dennings as the titular Nick and Norah are warm and endearing characters, loveable and always at the ready with a quip but fully capable of revealing more depth. They aren’t over written and precious, they don’t have to keep up with the script it fits them.
The comedy of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a mask and there are numerous telling moments in the film: such as the one where Nick has his cheek pressed against a picture of his girlfriend or the moments when after parting ways with Nick, Norah calls a friend named Tal (Jay Baruchel),who is a prick, but makes her feel good because he appreciates her sometimes or the moment when Norah asks how two people who can’t stand each other stay together for so long and Nick offers to call his parents to find out. This isn’t a romantic comedy about two people finding out they are perfect for each other, regardless of the fact that that happens to be true, it’s a story about how often our heart fails us and how we settle for being okay sometimes. The drunken escapades of Norah’s friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) suggest that obliviousness is a preferable alternative to throwing yourself out there for someone to trample on and Nick’s homosexual bandmates, who have brought a fellow named Lethario along for the ride, suggest as “Superbad” did before that there’s no love more uncomplex than man love.
“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a film that understands how big a role heartbreak, the folly of youth and settling for not being alone plays in our romantic lives, better than that I think it also understands what courage is. It takes lots of balls to put yourself out there and that fear that may send you into a retreat never goes away (the film’s final moments are a perfect example of this). The lucky ones among us just make an effort not to shit on or get shat upon.