Gen Z Goes Underground and Falls in Love

Maui Time | September 29, 2008
A romantic love letter to New York's downtown music scene, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist finds New Jersey high school senior Nick (Michael Cera) attending to a bruised heart by making volumes of compilation CDs for his snooty ex-girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena -- Fool's Gold). Enter Norah (Kat Dennings), who's already intimately familiar with Nick's connoisseur mix CDs, to make the most of a show where Nick's band is playing. One fast kiss between them sets them off an all-night search to see their favorite band "Where's Fluffy?," and to locate Norah's missing 3-sheets-to-the-wind amigo Caroline (Ari Graynor). Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO fame contributed musically to the light-hearted inner city road comedy that grooves on a youthful vibe from relatively obscure bands. The soundtrack is a keeper.

The filmmakers go to pains to include gay teens in a non-affected but still humorous light. Nick's gay band members Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) like to discuss possible band names to properly represent their irreverent "Queercore" punk attitude. The Jerk Offs and Sh*t Sandwich are a couple of possible designations that Nick doesn't bother to debate. Thom and Dev provide a helpful support group for Nick, that includes providing a push-up bra to Norah when it becomes clear that she'll be hanging out with Nick in his impossibly ugly yellow Yugo that frequently gets mistaken for a third-world taxicab. Think time machine.

Michael Cera plays the stereotyped role he invented -- a self-deprecating and patient goofball with a few not-so-hidden charms. Unknown to Nick, the spirited Norah has recovered from the trash more than a few mix CDs Nick made for Tris. He also doesn't realize that Norah knows Tris, and has had a crush on him for a while. So it is that in one moment of perfect teen affection, where the rules of gravity don't apply, Nick and Norah take off on their love-at-first-sight one-night courtship.

The kids drive like crap and they're irresponsible about taking care of Norah's drunken best friend, but the movie earns a point by showing certain dangers that urban teens encounter and the fearless way they approach such situations. As with any notable music-fueled romantic comedy -- High Fidelity or Almost Famous -- it's the music that sears the movie into the viewer's brain. Music from groups like The Dead 60s and The Submarines, as well as Mark Mothersbaugh's pop theme song, contribute to the rapid emotional undercurrents of the story's energetic characters. Here's a dream-tour of New York from the point of view of a bunch of young romantic kids taking full advantage of the city's hip clubs and restaurants. Who needs to go to New York for a weekend when you can let Nick and Norah take you with them?

(Sony Pictures) PG-13. 90 mins. (B) (Three Stars)


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