Synopsis: Every Night Has A Soundcheck.
After a chance encounter, Nick and Norah embark on a journey through New York’s indie rock scene on a quest to find the secret show of a legendary band, and wind up finding each other.
Strangely enough, I thought nothing of ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ when it arrived on the scene. I say “strangely enough”, because the title refers to music playlists and the tagline is “Every night has a soundtrack”. As someone “afflicted” with acute melomania, you’d think I would have wanted to watch it immediately.
Not only did it fly under my radar when it hit cinemas, but the DVD artwork made it look like a girly movie, what with the earbud heart, the chosen font/script and the night lights over a sappy blue sky. And it features a very dorky Michael Cera (who still has no pull on me even after seeing ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’).
So, despite positive word-of-mouth, I generally dismissed it. I saw it everywhere, on store shelves, in rental shops, in pawn shops, in dustbins… you name it. But the moment that I saw its cover art I immediately rolled my eyes and moved on to other, better things. Like, um, the remake of ‘Friday the 13th’, for instance.
But a couple of friends of mine recommended it recently and it stuck in the back of my mind like that song you hear in the mall once too many times. Oh, it used to leave you cold, indifferent, but… suddenly, it’s on your radar – there’s just something about it that makes you want to go out and get it.
Combine this with my revisiting of the ‘Thin Man’ movies, whose central characters are Nick and Nora Charles, and I couldn’t help but want to follow them up with this odd ditty. I mean, I’m always looking for relatively decent excuses to watch stuff, and a part of me often tries to find connecting threads between my various viewings.
This was going to be a very loose connecting thread, but it amused me. Which is a good thing, otherwise, I would likely have kept ‘Nick and Norah’ at the bottom of my own, rather extensive (if not virtually infinite), playlist. It’s not to say that ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ is the movie of the year for me. Hardly. But I enjoyed that it was unconventional in many ways:
– the lead actors are both unglamourous types. Michael Cera will likely always look like a dork. I suspect that his only other option in life might very well be to become a Beck look-alike. Kat Dennings, although attractive (i.e. less dorky than Cera), seems to be from the same gene-pool that spawned Macaulay Culkin. Take a look at the combination of her eyes (sans make-up), nose and mouth.
– the main characters, while perhaps relatable to some, were largely insignificant to me. I couldn’t understand why Nick was such a putz, given to fawning over someone who treated him like dirt. I also didn’t get why Norah had surrounded herself with such nitwit friends – some of which were downright mean. Seriously, who would voluntarily subject themselves to such abuse? Anyway, I didn’t find them especially appealing.
– it all revolves around the enjoyment of music, in that Nick constantly makes mix CDs for his ex, Norah loves mix CDs -especially his-, and all of the characters are on a quest to get to a secret concert by their favourite band, Fluffy. Further to this, the whole movie soundtrack is filled to the brim with constant music, including Nick’s The Cure ring tone. The last movie I remember that is truly about music lovers is ‘High Fidelity’. There may be others, but this a rare one.
– Nick’s guy friends are all gay. I found this refreshing because gay characters are often a token addition to the mix. Here, they’re just part of the picture and have a more central role – they’re not there for melodramatic reasons or cheap comedy. And it’s a decent message to send that gay and straight males can befriend each other and cohabitate without any unnecessary tension (sexual or otherwise).
– Nick is straight edge. It didn’t occur to me that he wasn’t drinking or smoking until he mentioned it to Norah, whilst in transit during their madcap adventures. I’m not sure if she is too, but I also don’t recall her drinking or smoking. Either way, I love that there’s a protagonist who isn’t out to party like they usually do in teen/young adult flicks. Granted, it’s Michael Cera, so it doesn’t make it cool, but it’s a start.
– the exchanges between Nick and Norah are awkward, not smooth at all. While I found that hard to digest because I never understood why they reacted the way they did or said the things they said, I appreciate the fact that they weren’t written in some more lyrical and/or clichéd fashion. These feel like real people with each their own idiosyncratic way of communicating, meaning that they didn’t always get each other. That’s a nice touch.
– there’s one sex scene in the film, but it’s kept very clean, PG-rated. That’s not what’s cool (although, in this day and age, it’s rather refreshing). What’s awesome is that they did a small role-reversal and made the girl have a premature orgasm. In comedies, and in media in general, men are always made fun of for premature ejaculation, as if it were the end of the world. But we never ever encounter the reverse – even though it happens for real. So it was nice to see it portrayed – and in a non-judgemental way, too.
In the end, what we get with ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ is not so much a comedy (although I suspect I would have laughed more were I in the company of others), a romantic film, or even a nerd pic for music snobs. What the filmmakers put together is a more true-to-life portrayal of the complexities of love, friendship and big city life – but wrapped up in a shiny Hollywood wrapper to make it more friendly to the masses.
It’s the type of motion picture that will connect with some people more than others, but I think that those who get it are likely going to spin it a lot; it’s a film with the potential for a long-lasting shelf-life.