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NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008) ***** movie review by COOP

Posted on October 7th, 2008
Posted on October 7th, 2008


Teen romances usually bore me with their tired clichés and lack of ingenuity. They have angsty teens who fall in love, go through their ups and downs, leading up to a predictable ending. Most are designed simply to win the “Best Kiss” category at the MTV Movie Awards. Thankfully, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a shining exception. Not since the John Hughes films of the 1980’s has a teen romance flick been so much fun.

Nick (Michael Cera) is the straight bass player in an all gay punk band. Nursing a broken heart, he makes mixed CDs for his evil moppet of an ex-girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena). When Tris throws away his CDs at school, Norah (Kat Dennings) fishes them out of the trash and swoons at the amazing songs mixed together by a guy she’s never met. When Nick and Norah meet by chance, sparks fly. She kisses him in an attempt to look like she has a date in front of her mean classmate. Unfortunately that classmate is Tris who proceeds to re-seduce Nick just to prove she can. Embarrassed, Norah tries to leave but Nick’s gay band members play matchmaker by teaming Nick with Norah to locate a secret performance by the pair’s mutually favorite indie band, “Where’s Fluffy?” Calamity and romance ensues.

The development of the lead characters and their undeniable chemistry give the film an ironclad strength. Nick seems like a loser, but put him on a stage and he’s a reluctant rock star. He makes mixed CDs out of desperate heartache, yet they inspire Norah’s emotions to soar. At first, Norah seems equally lost as she lets friends, enemies and boyfriends walk all over her; yet in the presence of Nick, she becomes bold. It’s obvious these two characters were destined to be together; however, their journey through the night together is the real payoff, resulting in a few of the most romantic scenes in recent memory.

Michale Cera has become such a teen icon with comedy blockbusters like “Superbad” and “Juno,” but his success seems to defy all logic. He’s awkward, geeky, clueless and for some reason, magnetic. He plays the same character in every film, but he’s so darned likeable you can’t help but root for him. His sad-sack looks and uncomfortable demeanor dissolve upon the delivery of his sharp-witted, dry sarcasm. As he matures it will be interesting to see how his career develops. I’m hoping he can keep things fresh so the audience won’t grow tired of his trademark schtick.

Kat Dennings has scored a career-catapulting win as Norah. As the goth-girl Mona in “The House Bunny,” we got glimpses of her beauty and talent, but “Nick and Norah” will singlehandedly make her a teen icon. I hereby crown her as the next “America’s Sweetheart” (like Molly Ringwald in the 80’s, only less whiney and more headstrong).

A special mention should go to Ari Graynor as Caroline, Norah’s inebriated friend who gets lost in Manhattan, causing Nick and Norah to take a side trip to find her. One of her greatest scenes involved her terrifying a hungry bus passenger by drunkenly trying to seduce him out of his turkey sandwich. Also good is Jay Baruchel who is cast against type as Norah’s sleazy ex, Tal. Nick’s gay bandmates, Thom (Aaron Yoo), Dev (Rafi Gavron) and tag-along Lothario (Jonathan B. Wright) operate as Nick’s watchful guardians and love mentors. They provide the film with a lot of heart, but also comedic relief. Their arguing over what offensive new name to call their band results in an uproarious moment when Norah slings a very creative obscenity at them. Instead of getting angry, they smile and high five each other… knowing it’s the perfect name for their band.

Also noteworthy are the little touches that add magic to the film. For instance, Norah has the mysterious ability to bypass any club line, get all of her friends in and receive unlimited freebies once inside. The reason behind this uncanny power leads up to a terrific twist for Nick when he discovers her secret. Equally clever is a running gag with a chewed-up piece of gum. This gum somehow becomes an actual character in the film and goes on an adventure of its own (see it and you’ll understand, trust me).

Add to the mix a thoughtful indie-rock soundtrack and a storyline that’s honest about teen behavior (hence the PG-13 rating) and you’ve got a winner. “Nick and Norah” is required viewing for “Generation Y” and “Generation X-ers” who grew up on films like “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink.” Warning: Best viewed with a date!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This trailer makes the film look like the usual teen fluff. I assure you, it is more than that…

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