Monday, October 6, 2008

Movie Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Having caught all of one commercial for this movie, I figured it would be a good "compromise" film for me and Kat. We have some overlap in our tastes and so this looked like a good bet to fit in that space.

We loved it.

Directed by Peter Sollett and written by Lorene Scafaria (who has a funny cameo), from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the story follows a bass player named Nick (Michael Cera). He's been pining for his ex-girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) for a month, making pitiful phone calls and mix CDs in a half-hearted attempt to win her back. He wants to bail on his band's gig in the city (NYC), but his two gay bandmates Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) have had enough; they pry him loose from his depression by dropping a rumor that the underground band "Where's Fluffy?" is supposed to play that night. Intrigued, Nick goes along.

The same rumor sparks New York plans for BFFs Norah (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Ari Graynor)... who also happen to know Tris.

Converging in the bar where Nick's "queercore" band is playing, the hunt for this underground concert becomes a pretext for a long, loving look at the Big Apple, from the point of view of teens who are seeing the world through the eyes of love, jealousy, insecurity and hope. Do they make it to the show? Does one character go off the rails for an extended side journey, leading to a hilarious reunion? Well, can't really say.

Cera is great as Nick, playing the melancholy "nice guy" who deserves the girl but in real life rarely gets her. He has the soft-emo groove down, the shyness thing works for him-- but he needs to stretch some in his next roles. Not that he's bad by any means, but it would be a shame for this kid to get typecast so young. He handles his emotional rollercoaster ride well throughout, hitting the appropriate beats with deft skill; his chemistry with Dennings in particular is fantastic.

Dennings is likewise great as Norah. She plays off Cera's quiet doofiness, showing a young woman who's got serious self-doubt but is never weak. Norah is a good friend to Caroline, yet her best scene is in a quiet moment at the end when she and Cera trade philosophical snippets.

Ari Graynor steals the movie as Caroline, developing a persona who is lovable, sweet and completely out of control from one moment to the next. Her personal struggles are totally familiar to anyone who ever woke up somewhere and wondered "how the heck did I get here?" The movie comes alive in several of her scenes, particularly one wherein she reclaims a missing piece of gum.

Alexis Dziena was a complete surprise. Kat and I figured she was an honest-to-God teenager, since she looks decidedly younger than her co-stars... so imagine my surprise to find she's 24. Wow. She gives a terrific performance as Tris, the high school hottie who uses guys and gets away with it. Her scenes with Cera and Dennings have a snappy bite to them that show she has an A-game in her. (And is it just me, that she reminds me of Mila Kunis?)

Yoo and Gavron are fun as Nick's bandmates, realizing before he does what's happening and figuring out a way to help-- with some clever gifts at the right moment.

The movie was clearly shot in New York-- Kat and I were chuckling about how many landmarks we recognized (and how many of the restaurants we had visited)-- and as I said, it is a love letter to the city and to being a teenager. Really enjoyed it, so go see it.

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