Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Teen romantic comedies are a dime a dozen and can often prove as indistinguishable as they are undistinguished, yet with Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist, much like with the compilation discs its hero makes and its heroine takes, the winning secret is all in the mix. Following his debut, Raising Victor Vargas (2002), director Peter Sollett proves once again that he knows his way around adolescent angst.

Lovesick young musician Nick (Michael Cera) is a mildly troubled, but nice, misfit, his outsider status reflected both in the antiquated bright yellow Yugo he drives and in the fact that he is heterosexual bass player to an otherwise all-gay band. Unable to get over being dumped by the manipulative Tris (Alexis Dziena), Nick obsessively burns mix discs of his favourite music for her, which she mocks and discards – but which her classmate Norah (Kat Dennings) retrieves and cherishes as "the best mixes in the world".

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It is obvious Nick and Norah are made for each other, if only they could meet - and meet they will over one long and eventful night in New York's Lower East Side. Yet before they can begin to make beautiful music together, they must first fully extricate themselves from relationships of the past, as well as find Norah's woefully plastered friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), the location of a secret gig by their favourite band Where's Fluffy, and even Jesus.

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist ought to be disposable trash. The plot, in all its slightness, is an uninspired remix of rom-com convention, never deviating from the genre's straightest pathways. A boy meets a girl, a series of obstacles gets in their way, but ultimately all is overcome and love reigns supreme. Many of the episodes between the opening and closing scenes seem as infinite in their extendibility (and as arbitrary) as the playlist of the title – while the minor characters, from the bitchy or exploitative exes to the gay confidantes, come right out of cliché central. There is even, in the upchuck antics of Caroline, that staple of teen comedies, gross-out humour.

So where, then, did it all go so right? The answer lies in its two stars, and in its screenplay. Charismatic players Cera and Dennings bring both individual plausibility and mutual chemistry to their characters, making their problems immediately recognisable and understandable to the targeted adolescent audience while charming rather than alienating older viewers – and they are well served by Lorene Scafaria's script (adapted from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan) that sparkles with breezy wit.

The film's other great quality is a lack of overweening ambition. Set for the most part over a single night, Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist is not, despite what its title might suggest, about a love that will last forever, but rather about the seeming infinity of the first time – and it captures that moment with infectious joy, like a song that just clicks. No doubt there will be more sour to come in both Nick and Norah's lives, but for the duration of this film, things remain irresistibly sweet.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2008
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Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist packshot
Two young people are thrown together one night, as they search for their favourite band's secret gig.
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Director: Peter Sollett

Writer: Lorene Scafaria, based on the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis Dziena, Ari Graynor, Aaron Yoo, Jay Baruchel, Rafi Gavron

Year: 2008

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US


London 2008

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