Movies / Movie Reviews

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

By Beth Davies-Stofka
October 20, 2008 - 08:55

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Aaron Yoo, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron, Alexis Dziena
Directed by: Pete Sollett
Produced by: Nathan Kahane, Adam Brightman, Joe Drake
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical/Performing Arts, Romance, Adaptation and Teen
Release Date: October 3rd, 2008 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior.
Distributors: Sony Pictures Releasing

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is a thoughtful teen romance about two young people at the threshold of adulthood, already carrying a lot of baggage.  By awkwardly falling in love, they help each other shed that baggage, coming of age with a fresh start and a hand to hold.  This little film, handled expertly and indulgently by director Pete Sollett, is poignant and absorbing, and pretty funny too.

Nick and Tris have broken up, and Nick is having a lot of trouble moving on.  He plays bass in an indie-rock band with his best friends, who love him and hate Tris, and are dedicated to helping Nick forget her.  Nick inexplicably drives a Yugo that he tends with the dedication of a parent.

Norah is a lovely young woman with her own heavy burdens to bear.  She's the daughter of somebody famous, and she's a Jewish girl at Sacred Heart High School.  Her insecurities, and her defiance in the face of them, make her by far the most interesting character in this story.  Like Nick with his Yugo, Norah inexplicably babysits, and cleans up, her cheerfully alcoholic friend Caroline.

The film's central metaphor is found in guerrilla band Fluffy, which cultivates adoring fans by giving occasional unannounced concerts in the city.  On mere hours of advance notice, the band appears for a free concert at an undisclosed location.  Clues and misdirection appear in graffiti on bathroom stalls, culminating in a 4:00 AM live performance in front of the few fans lucky enough to have followed the clues to the correct spot.  Finding a soul mate is a similar challenge.

Nick and Norah meet in a club on one such night.  Both of them have come to the city with friends to find Fluffy.  Thanks to a very drunk Caroline, Nick and Norah wind up spending the entire night together, scouring the city.  Their quest alternates between looking for Caroline and looking for Fluffy.

It is against this backdrop that we watch a gradual bond develop between the two young strangers.  Thanks to a great supporting cast and the wonderland world of New York City at night, the story stays funny and fresh, while the highly expressive faces of the two stars guide us subtly through their fumbling and stumbling inner transformations.  They build something private and intimate against one of the most entertaining and challenging backdrops in the world.  

It's touching because we instinctively know that it is this quiet solidarity that can get us through the vicissitudes and vagaries of life.  It's interesting that Nick & Norah don't begin their new lives strolling out onto a broad city avenue at sunrise.  They go away into their future kissing on a down escalator.  The point isn't that love has come to stay and everything will be great.  The point is that love has come to stay and life will be easier to take.

Even though the ending of a romance is, and should be, entirely predictable, I was totally engaged in rooting for those two.  Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist scores a near-perfect 5 on my CYTIE Index.*

*CYTIE stands for "Causes You to Ignore Everything."  I can't locate the provenance, so if you know, post it here.

Rating: 8 /10

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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