Monday, October 13, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a teen comedy starring Micheal Cera and Kat Dennings. Each play an awkward teen destined to meet on one fateful crazy night in the big city. Nick and Norah are sober teens surrounded by a world of drunken, sex-starved, kids with misplaced passions and insecurities. Part of my problem with this film is that most of it is told in real time. There is no escape from the drunken girl who's running gag is that she burps or throws up in each scene. There is no passage of time where we get to see decisions played out. The film asks us to accept that when your a teenager, your life can change in one night. I can accept that however this film cheap-shots it's own premise as the night goes on.

The screenplay strains to come up with logical reasons why Nick and Norah have to be together even when they don't want to be. One such contrivance is that everybody in the city is trying to get to a concert by a band called Where's Fluffy. This band's idea of self promotion is not to tell it's fans where they are playing but instead leave clues on bathroom walls and with radio Deejays. In a world of instant communication, especially among teens, I doubt this strategy would last more than five minutes. I also don't buy that kids would drive all over New York checking each club and even buying tickets to "bait and switch" shows put on by other desperate bands. However the film is better when Nick and Norah are together so accepting this contrivance is to our benefit. In fact when they are together, their performances are genuine and funny. Cera has some great lines with great delivery. Good romantic tension is built as the two struggle to connect, unfortunately there's not enough of these scenes in the film. It's overcrowded with sick, gross-out gags, and SNL cameos that don't add up to much comedy and only serve to disgust. There is one scene involving a piece of gum and a bus station toilet that is so gross, that literally everyone in my screening walked out. All the secondary characters in Nick and Norah's world are selfish, drunkards, or gay caricatures leaving Nick and Norah the only characters that feel real. The fact that Nick and Norah's decisions even mean anything is due to the fact that they haven't given into the world that their friends have. For example they are the only two straight-edged kids in the film.

Some of the best moments between Nick and Norah come in the obligatory scene in which they finally become a couple. It starts out really sweet and even begins to reward the audience for sitting through all cheap antics the night brought on. But then it is punctuated by the most undermining scene in the film.

Earlier in the film there is a scene in which Seth Meyers from SNL has sex in the back of Nick's car because he believes it's a taxi. Meanwhile nick are Norah are trying to get to know each other in the front seats. It's meant to be an awkward scene but it's also meant to endear these characters to the audience. This is then undermined by the fact that when Nick and Nora finally do become a couple, the do the same thing in a recording studio.

This film is not about morality, but it uses morality to separate the characters that matter from those that don't matter. Essentially the two main characters I admired the whole film, became as cheap as everyone else in the end.


Blogger Jordan said...

I love Michael Cera and have been curious about this film. I actually really like the director's earlier film, 'Raising Victor Vargas.'

Although I haven't seen this film I like the point you raised about the writer's use of contrasting relationship morals to guide our sympathy. And it's very effective. One of my favorite examples of this is in Three Seasons when the humble rickshaw puller saves up enough money to afford the beautiful prostitute he's been admiring. We then find out that his purposes are much more pure and redeeming than would at first seem.

Another great example is in 'All the real girls' where the two main characters don't have sex until their relationship is ruined. In fact the Paul Schneider character avoided sex with her for that reason. He didn't want to cheapen a relationship by that was more meaningful than what he had experienced before.

In "three seasons" and "all the real girls" the writers use the context of morality to make us feel that the key relationship in the movie means more than surrounding relationships.

Sounds like despite some obnoxious detours Nick and Nora had that going for it and then 'screwed it up'. (sorry - bad pun)

11:40 AM  

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