Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Directed by Peter Sollett. Starring Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Zachary Booth, Jay Baruchel. (2008, PG-13, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 3, 2008
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's infinitely readable he said/she said young-adult novel, wants to be loved at least as much as the soulful and ingrown indie hipsters of its title. But all I can seem to muster, post-screening, is a modicum of fondness and a probably impermanent relief that the film isn't anywhere near as awful as it might have been in less capable hands. Director Sollett, who helmed the fine Raising Victor Vargas back in 2002, keeps things real almost to the point of emotional withdrawal, which was surely his intent: Emo kids are, if anything, emotionally constipated, which makes for terrifically engaging bands but precious little dialogue. Nick (Cera) and Norah (Dennings) are a pair of bridge-and-tunnel teens (they both hail from Englewood, N.J.) who meet cute while out on the town searching the East Village and Brooklyn for a supersecret show by too-cool-for-school band Where's Fluffy? (a faux band moniker that rivals Reality Bites' Hey, That's My Bike for sheer cultural inscrutability). Nick, mourning the fact that he's been dumped by sexy, shallow ex Tris (Dziena) by burning endless mix CDs for his departed, is dragged out of his self-pity party and thrust into the gorgeous neon of the New York night by his gay bandmates, who vow to hook him up with someone new by the end of the night. Enter Norah, a velvet-roper born of music-business royalty who convolutedly ends up sharing Nick's bedraggled Yugo as the new pair-to-be search for Fluffy and Norah's wasted best friend Caroline (Graynor). Comparing iPods, Norah recognizes a kindred spirit in the woeful Nick and immediately the big question isn't Will they? but When will they? (and where the hell is Fluffy?). Cera builds slightly on his Superbad template of sensitive geek, and Dennings is darkly luminous as the already jaded Norah, and the film certainly captures the magic of that perfect night out during which anything can happen and, of course, does. But the spark at the heart of Cohn and Levithan's novel seems dampened here, and between Nick's endless dithering over his scheming ex and Norah's supercool pout, the film never quite reaches the heartfelt heartache heights of, say, the many, many indie darlings (Vampire Weekend, Devendra Banhart, We Are Scientists) that litter the soundtrack like so many skinny jeans at a Spoon show. There's love in the air, sure, but it's so slight and ephemeral it might as well be the Strokes' career, and, as far as NYC nights go, it's got nothing on either John Hughes' teen-angstgasms or, especially, Martin Scorsese's far juicier, often overlooked, midnight masterpiece After Hours. It's like looking through a dreamy, indie-mope kaleidoscope at a party you're not invited to, and, frankly, not even sure you'd want to attend.