Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Remember that sub-plot in 200 Cigarettes where Kate Hudson gets dog poop all over her coat? Well Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is that scene dragged out to a 90 minute length, but instead of the dog poop, we get the understudy, puke-and-feces-infested chewing gum that is shared between multiple characters. And much like 200 Cigarettes, Nick and Norah is a plotless travelogue of the lower east side of Manhattan, with the cameo heavy cast en route to a location where a supposedly famous music group (a Radioheadesque band named Where’s Fluffy?) will appear, and trendy music drenched over every moment, to cover up the lack of natural conflict, character development, or witty dialogue. Not that this approach can’t work, but there are so many details that seem off in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (and that doesn’t even count the twee title), that the inevitable romance and resolution would have made just as much sense in being the first scene of the movie, than the last.
For instance, the relationships that the two title characters are recovering from seem to make no sense from either a likelihood or age standpoint. Why would the endlessly introverted and awkwardly lanky Michael Cera, playing Nick, get the attention of a popularity-driven cheerleader type, especially when so much is made of his driving a Yugo (a girl like that would have nothing to do with a car like that)? Why would the busty goth daughter (Norah, played by Kat Dennings) of a major music producer spend three years with a guy (the great Jay Baruchel, totally underused) who not only would have been at least 25 years old when they met, but is openly using her for her connections? There’s also the strange disconnect of all the characters living and going to school in New Jersey but are seemingly the only people in the universe, as they constantly run into each other throughout lower Manhattan. It plays like a slasher movie, only Jason has been replaced by emotionally blood sucking exes.
This is all a shame because of the promise of the cast and especially director Peter Sollett, who helmed the extremely intuitive and insightful teenage romance Raising Victor Vargas (which also took place on the lower east side of Manhattan). But Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is simply all the elements of a good movie: Trendy music, reference to old movie in the title, aimless teenagers in search of fun and more importantly clarity, strained meet-cutes, female orgasms, gay best friends, and men with porkpie hats.
This cynical mixture glosses over the fact that Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is nothing but an aimless shaggy dog story, completely without purpose, which is fine if you’re in the movie, not so much if you’re watching it. For a supposedly meaningful experience for the main characters, it’s awfully neutered. And light on the porkpie hats.