Year: 2008 (U.K release: 2009)
Director: Peter Sollett
Screenplay: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings
Much like this year's Observe and Report, I enjoyed Nick and Norah Infinite Playlist (or NNIP as it will now be called) as it struck a cord with me. It hit that deep rooted awkwardness that I repress within me deep down to the pit of my stomach. It's my kinda date movie: it doesn't preach, doesn't act too cool for school (despite the wannabe hip soundtrack), and like it's characters, the movie is just out for the ride.
One of my favorite reviewers James Berardinelli mentions that NNIP reminded him of the Richard Linklater's mid 90's hit Before Sunrise. I happened to check out Linklater's film a night before this one and I must disagree. Linklater's film is very much a slice of life piece while NNIP tries it's best to stick rigidly to a conventional three act structure. This is the film's weakness as it runs out of stream a little way under the second act. In fact I thought the film had finished early as both characters had appeared to wrap up all the outer conflict surrounding them quite swiftly. If NNIP had borrowed more of Linklater's freewheeling style then the films end would have been a lot stronger.
But like the aforementioned Before Sunrise, what NNIP has is two engrossing leads which pulled me though the films weaker moments. Nick and Norah are not only characters that are finding things out for themselves (unlike many of their idiot rom-com counterparts) but are entertaining to boot. Michael Cera and Kat Denning seem so naturally down to earth throughout it's hard not to like them. They remind me of John Hughes characters: introverted and yet accessible (let's leave Ferris out of this). Both are caught in that insecure little bubble that teens are nearly always in. Don't try and place them in the Juno crowd, they're not as self aware and sassy and because of that the two feel more like real teenagers (don't get me wrong however as I really liked Juno).
The interaction of the couple help push the unoriginal story forward and keep the engery up for as long as they can. The support also helps things with Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron and Jonathan B Wright playing a trio of gay guys who are amusing but do not irritate with overacted cliched campness. To add to this we are also given Ari Graynor who plays Norah's drunken friend Caroline. It's a role that made me laugh out loud often, mostly because I know drunks like that. It's a role played at just the right pitch with lines that sometimes sound too perfect to be scripted.
The last performance of note is that of Alexis Diziena, who plays Nick's superbitch ex-girlfriend. I skimmed a review which found a character like that far too exaggerated and wouldn't even look at a character like Nick. That reviewer was lucky enough not to go the same school and colleges that I went to because I saw girls who would be that kind of girl. Yes she's a a private school girl, but she clearly hasn't a car of her own and Nick seems the easily suggestible type whose IN A BAND. Material girls are still everywhere you look...believe me. Diziena plays the role adequately although in the last few months I've been spoilt with stronger mean girlfriend performances such as Kirsten Stewart in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008).
While the film's pace is slightly off, director Peter Sollett manages to keep the tone light throughout. The same goes for the script which isn't as sharp as brighter teen comedies but still has some sparkling moments. I couldn't help but smile at some of the lines which could sound cheesy to some but reek of that youthful nativity I used to have, I blame the break ups.
I'm finding myself becoming even more intolerant to rom-coms, not only due to their lack of trying but their lack of sincerity. NNIP isn't going to be remembered as the romance of the decade but I'd rather the next generation set their eyes on little movies like this compared to the dubious sexual politics of Twilight or the horrid materialistic values of Sex in the city. It's not going to hit my top ten list but I can easily see myself watching this again with the girlfriend on a lazy Sunday, and that's not a bad thing.