Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Night Out

My trip last weekend to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist was my first movie theater outing since catching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight back in July (there just hasn't been much of interest this movie season). I didn't feel a need to write a review on The Dark Knight as it has been done to death, and I hardly have anything new to offer.

My review in two sentences? The Dark Knight is a heavy-hitting epic that tries to fit too many subplots into one overarching story while misusing the talented Maggie Gyllenhaal and overusing Christian Bale's "Batman voice". But Heath Ledger's brilliant performance as the uber-villainous Joker more than makes up for the film's over-abundance of story and 150+ min running time.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is, of course, a film of an entirely different color ...

In this indie flick, Michael Cera and Kat Dennings play two awkward teens looking for love as they hook up on a whirlwind night out in New York City in search of their favorite band's unannounced concert. Michael Cera, best known for his role in Arrested Development and the recent hits Juno and Superbad, plays the usual - an awkward, but ultimately lovable geek named Nick whose sarcastic, straight-man nature is at odds with the craziness around him. Nick may be the one driving Dennings's character Norah around the city, but it's ultimately Norah who is giving Nick the ride of his life.

Nick and Norah are likable enough as far as indie outcasts go, but just as Dennings is no Ellen Page, Nick and Norah is no Juno. The film is uneven at best - inspired comedic bits and romantic yearnings are tousled up with complete randomness (Nick's ex does a sexy dance??!!), and the general yawner premise - there's a concert, and it's going to be awesome, but, like no one knows where it is!!

With the words "Infinite Playlist" making up 2/5ths of the title, I really expected more of a focus on the music, or at the very least, a memorable soundtrack. Zach Braff's Garden State not only had THE soundtrack of the year, but also the defining song of the film, "New Slang" by The Shins, highlighted when Natalie Portman's character, Sam, insists, "You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear."

There's no transcendent music moment in Infinite Playlist and not even an explanation as to why the film's fictional band Where's Fluffy is even worth tracking down across a city of 10 million people for an eventual "secret" 4am concert. The importance of the music and the concert in Nick and Norah's budding romance falls flat without a real band, or at the very least, real songs to tie it all together.

The highlight of the film is definitely the exploits of Norah's wasted friend Caroline, played with great comic zeal by Ari Graynor who stumbles (with her gum) from scene to scene in a daze. Nick and Norah spend half their night trying to track Caroline down, and Graynor's performance is so spot-on, that you understand why Norah bothers to be her designated safe commute home. She's a drunk mess, but at least she's fun.


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