Written by: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic
It’s no surprise that Peter Sollett, the director of the wonderfully effervescent Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, is from New York City. Throughout his film the city that never sleeps plays a major role, in fact I haven’t seen a better use of its Greenwich Village and East Village locales since Jim Fall’s Trick. It seems to be not only a love poem to the possibilities of young romance, but to the city and its infinite possibilities as well. It also proves that you can indeed shoot a film in New York (not Toronto or Vancouver sitting in) if you do it in a smart and economical way. Did I mention that this is also a “teen” movie with characters that we actually enjoy spending time with? What a miracle this film is.
Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) is Nick, a hopeless romantic who after breaking up with his girlfriend finds himself sending her several CDs with mixes of his band's music. He titles them “Closure mix volume 12” and the like. His band is called “The Jerk-Offs” and both of his band mates are gay. One night while hanging out in the city he meets Nora (Kat Dennings) in an awkward fashion. Their night becomes even more awkward when Nora’s friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) gets so drunk that Nick’s buddies have to give her a ride home, only to somehow lose her before they get there. There’s also a popular underground band that is playing somewhere in the city, but nobody knows exactly where; there are clues posted in public restrooms and over local radio stations and the whole teen/twenty-something universe is hoping to find the answer.
Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist takes place over one very long night in the big apple. Between trying to find her friend while also hoping to find that elusive concert, Nick and Nora have their hands full. However there’s also the issue of their exes, who only want to hang on to them for selfish reasons. It’s not easy being a teenager in the 21st century, but Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist seems to have a real grasp on the way things are now. Unlike most Hollywood movies about teenagers, it doesn’t assume that getting laid is the most important thing on the minds of young adults. Heck, these kids might even care about their future, not only with their careers but with who they eventually end up with. Yes they are teenagers, and still do incredibly stupid and even grotesque things, but they also take their music seriously and have real friendships.
The film also takes a realistic view of modern day sexual politics, where straight boys mix with gay boys without giving it any second thought. As Nick tells Nora, “I’m not one to affix labels” and neither does the film. It’s truly refreshing to see such an open-minded film that gives us real people instead of Hollywood types. The movie, like its characters, thinks outside the box. As Nick and Nora work their way through the New York night, the film seems unscripted, almost improvised. The fact that we know it isn’t makes it even more remarkable. In fact Lorene Scafaria’s script is brilliantly structured. As with any burgeoning romance the early scenes in the film are kind of disjointed and clumsy but as Nick and Nora get to know each other things begin to feel smoother and grounded.
Is it predictable that Nick and Nora will end up together? Probably, but that’s not the point, it’s how they get there that really matters. Michael Cera is once again wonderful as Nick; his lines are delivered with such ease that sometimes the most profound statement seems ordinary. Cera is a true natural and he’s matches here by Dennings, who makes Nora a free spirit in her own right, and someone who knows a lot more than she lets on.
As the Manhattan night turns into morning and Nick and Nora’s little adventure comes to an end the two do indeed end up together but it feels as though it’s because they have truly discovered each other instead of a having a screenplay forcing the issue. I haven’t felt this way about a film like this since Before Sunrise, and that’s no small compliment.