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Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist A Good Party Flick

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Directed by Peter Sollett
Written by Lorene Scafaria from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Sony, 2008

Movies like Go, Superbad, and Dazed and Confused have a comfortable feel to them, they cover a day-in-the-life of multiple characters, a sort of snapshot of people just trying to have a good time.  In Go, the good times people want to have are an escape from their job, and in Superbad and Dazed and Confused, from school.  They all have their conflicts, but they never seem too heavy, even in Go when drug dealer Todd Gaines (Timothy Olyphant) is tracking down Ronna (Sarah Polley) for stealing from him.  It’s still oddly comforting that a gun-wielding drug dealer is just trying to stick to his principles and put a bullet in someone if necessary.  In a lot of ways, both movies make getting in trouble fun.

I don’t know where it all started, but I’m going to take a stab at George Lucas’ American Graffiti, or perhaps even Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.  Whatever the case may be, I always seem to enjoy these films because they make it seem like I’m tagging along.  Somehow I’m hanging out instead of sitting in a darkened auditorium.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist isn’t exactly like those previous films, since it has only two main characters and a central plot, but it manages to get the feel of the party film down.  Nick (Michael Cera) is the only straight member in a band known as The Jerkoffs.  He was recently dumped by his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) on his birthday, but he keeps making her mix CDs, the kind of mix CDs that have all those cool bands in which no average person knows but are jealously cherished by the small community who do know them.  Tris’ so-called friends are Caroline (Ari Graynor) and Norah (Kat Dennings), and they don’t know who Nick is, setting up our film’s driving plot point.

Norah, little does Tris know, has been taking Nick’s mix CDs when she casually throws them away, and has developed a crush on an unseen person.  It just so happens that on this night the three girls are taking that short drive from New Jersey to Manhattan to a small venue to see The Jerkoffs.  Tris is rubbing her new college boyfriend in everyone’s face, mainly Nick’s, as it becomes very clear that she still has feelings for him and is just trying to make him jealous, but she’s also rubbing it in Norah’s face, mocking her for being alone (and hating her for having a famous and wealthy dad).  Norah, in a desperate effort to show that she is, in fact, not alone, grabs Nick and tells him to pretend to be her boyfriend.  They kiss, a couple of sparks fly, Tris gets jealous and tries to disguise it, and we move on to the next stage.

Nick’s gay bandmates try to get him alone with Norah, and they promise to take the drunk Caroline home.  The hope is that they’ll get to know each other and fall in love and whatnot, but this would be no romantic comedy if they just dug each other right away.  Nick and Norah hope to find a band called Where’s Fluffy?, a band that leaves cryptic clues around town and on the radio as to where they are playing, and sometimes even leading people astray.  This quest is interrupted when Nick and Norah get in a fight, and then Nick gets a call that Caroline has escaped his bandmates’ van and is nowhere to be found.  So, at this point, there are three events swirling around: The Where’s Fluffy? concert is put on the backburner, the quest to find the drunken Caroline in Manhattan, and the will-they-won’t-they romantic convergence of Nick and Norah, with their resident douchebag exes vying for their attention.  Norah’s ex is played by Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder).

Of course, the movie would not be called Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist if it were not the love of music that will eventually bring them together.  The movie is ultimately charming and fun to watch, with two highly appealing leads.  There is a fairly decent supporting cast, and there are even some cameos from Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg and Harold and Kumar’s John Cho.  The movie might well be worth watching just for Nick’s gangsta treatment of Tris late in the film.

By no means is it perfect, but it is certainly enjoyable.

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