Juno's Michael Cera and Charlie Bartlett's Kat Dennings star in the cute yet edgy romantic comedy Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a film made exclusively for the 16-25 crowd that manages to avoid the colorful pitfalls the genre normally encounters. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get going, and by the time it does - it may be too late.
Cera stars as Nick, the only straight member of a teenage band named The Jerk Offs. Still suffering from the recent breakup from his longtime-girlfriend-of-six-months Tris (Alexis Dziena), he crosses paths with Norah (Dennings) as they begin their search for the mysterious location of a popular indie band. Norah sends her drunk friend off with The Jerk Offs so she and Nick can hunt down the other band, leading to a crazy and wild night in New York City.
Nick and Norah is an interesting and surprisingly complicated flick, as the two leads ebb and flow in their attraction to one another. It's love at first sight, and yet there are so many factors that stand in their way from having a normal conversation. The movie flows rather seamlessly between a romantic comedy, a search for an elusive band, a comedy to find Norah's missing friend and a drama about exes who aren't as good as first thought.
When it gets into a groove, Nick and Norah is an intelligible, enjoyable film. There are some moments that are truly hilarious, and others that are touching. The movie consistently feels believably raw, although, even for New York, there sure as hell seems to be a lot of young people running around at four in the morning.
The movie works because it's different; it's not meant to be a fluffy romantic comedy but a snapshot of two people's adventures over the course of a night. It's like a non-violent version of "24," without the torturing or Jack Bauer. Director Peter Sollett isn't too concerned with showing us the full development of Nick and Norah's relationship; instead, we just see the early sparks.
Unfortunately, Nick and Norah takes a long time to get into its groove. It wants to be believable, and yet at times feels like a subdued version of Harold and Kumar. That reference may be completely inaccurate, but I wasn't expecting all the silly storylines about an almost-all-gay band, a drunk, missing friend, a bitchy ex-girlfriend and a sleazy ex-boyfriend. Everything works out in the end, but Sollett throws all of this into the first third of the movie; it just seems like a bit much.
The chemistry between the two actors is pretty strong, though the acting is inconsistent. Cera is very good at playing the ordinary, awkward love interest, though he's done it better in other films. The extremely subdued Nick lacks the likability of Cera's other similar characters, and it's hard to understand why Norah likes him so much. As for Norah, Dennings is once again a highlight. She's a talented young actress who has a unique look and some range; this may be her strongest performance yet.
The rest of the supporting cast is just OK; Nick's friends are likable but very one-dimensional; Dziena plays the bitchy ex-girlfriend without any of the bite. Jay Baruchel, in a small role, isn't used to his full potential.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist will appeal to teenagers who want something more than the typical teen fare, but it has enough flaws to keep it from having mainstream appeal. This is a movie that will quickly disappear from memory, despite its valiant attempts to be unique.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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