Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Love is one of the most powerful emotions. It can run the gamut from the heated passion of youth to the slow, comfortable manifestation of the more mature. Usually a romantic comedy focuses somewhere in between but when the teen set is involved a special genre is invoked; the coming of age story. This type of story is usually successful in reaching a broader range of audience members since those turbulent years are something we have all experienced or are going through at the moment. Young love is a dizzying roller coaster ride of raw emotions and even if our personal experiences are decades in the past it a movie of this sort can remind us bringing us back in time. One of the sleeper hits in the romantic comedy division is ‘Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. For those out there old as dirt such as myself; a playlist is a grouping of songs for use one a device suck as an ‘i-Pod’ or burned on a CD. In our time we emulated this by recording songs in a set order on a cassette. This is just a plot device to take an age old tale of love, rejection and acceptance and present in a fashion that will catch the eye of the targeted teen demographic. Admittedly, I was aware even curious about this film for some time now and was happy to have the opportunity to finally review it. While not part of the intended age group the film was incredibly energetic, entertaining and upbeat; perfect for a date night at home. First and foremost there is something that must be kept in mind as you sit down to watch this or any rom-com. The most important thing is fostering a better than usually ability to suspend disbelief. The premise depends on a set of unlikely circumstances progressing in exactly the correct sequence. As a person who works on a daily basis with statistics this flick stretches believability far beyond any realistic elastic limit; but with that said no one watches a romantic comedy for a realistic story line.
One thing that immediately jumped out at me was the source material was a novel co-authored by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I was interested in seeing how a teen love story would be crafted when the writing duties are split between a man and woman. The screenplay was the first adaptation for the relatively new Lorene Scafaria. To her credit the overall construction of the story is excellent especially considering this genre is extremely dependent on a well standardized scaffold dictation the ultimate flow of the plot and character development. All rom-coms are built on a three act play model; introduce them in act one, tear them apart in act two and reunite them happily in the final act. Since the destination is never a surprise what matters most is the road the script writer lays out before the audience as a means to get there. In this case the path goes through the realm of fantasy but after all that is a major part of a romantic story. The film was directed by New York City’s own Peter Sollett. This is his first feature film and also one of the first movies done under a new made in NYC banner. After living most of my life in New York City I do have a soft spot for movie that turn the city into a participating character.
Nick (Michael Cera) is a pathetic loser, whipped beyond imagination by his ex-girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena).actually Nick is a really nice guy and not intrinsically a whipped loser, he just became that because of his overly idealistic view of Tris that prevents him from seeing what a self-centered, manipulative piece of work she is. His entire bedroom is a shrine to Tris and Nick tries in vain to win her back by burning playlists for her. Tris has moved on to her next exploit tossing the CDs in the trash at school where they are retrieved by Nora (Kat Dennings) who loves music and is drawn to Nick’s CDs although she has never met him. In the position set between the two polar opposite girls is the alcoholic and trampy Caroline (Ari Graynor); a role required for comic relief and to realistically bridge the social gap and open hostility between Nora and Tris. One note; Tris is constantly stating the Nora is unattractive when the fact is this is a cast filled with beautiful young actresses. It must be a ‘Mean Girl’ thing. Although Nick is straight he plays bass in an otherwise gay band called ‘The Jerk-Offs’. One night they were playing a gig and the other characters began to gather. Much to his chagrin Tris shows up with her new boyfriend in tow. She derides Nora for not having a boyfriend so Nora grabs the first guy she spots, Nick, and makes out with him. He goes along not only because Nora is very attractive but in hopes of getting Tris jealous. The one goal that Nick and Nora have in common is to find an Indy band ‘where’s Fluffy’ notorious for leaving clues to find their venues. Caroline passes out so the gay band mates offer to take her home in their van while Nick drives Nora home in his broken down Hugo that can barely make it up even a slight incline. The boys in the band hate Tris and decide that Nora is much better for their straight friend going so far as to tell Nora to go for it and change her bra to show off more cleavage. Sounds confusing; it is but in a delightfully whimsical fashion.
One aspect of this movie that works well is the context of the strangest night possible. Most of us have experienced a night that seemed to be horrible while going through it but turns out in retrospect to be one of the most memorable nights of our lives. Martin Scorsese did this extremely well in his dark comedy ‘After Hours’. This is a fun romp; lively and youthful but still entertaining for all.