[Contains Mix CD-burning SPOILERS!!!]
Despite having a soft-spot for both of the stars of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), I’ve been putting off watching it for very petty and personal reasons. Basically, I was worried that watching two cool, attractive young people falling in love on a club-crawl around New York would fill me with envy and ennui. As it turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about, because the romance here is pretty low-key, and the two leads make such a cute couple I was too busy willing them to get together to think about my own pesky issues.
As per usual, Michael Cera managed to make even the most innocuous lines seem chuckle-worthy, by the grace of his delivery, and there’s no one I’d rather see playing a lovelorn music-geek than him. He may not be everyone’s idea of a matinee idol, but you have to respect the fact that he’s managed to make-out with some of the most desirable actresses of his generation (on-screen, at least). Meanwhile, Kat Dennings was just straight-up, wall-to-wall, full-tilt adorable as the humble daughter of a powerful music producer, who falls for his scruffy, deadpan charms. If the entire film were focussed on their faltering, semi-improvised flirting, then I’d recommend it without reservation… unfortunately they’re surrounded by cartoony-evil exes and “wacky” best-friends, who keep interrupting the flow of their lo-fi affair, like someone mashing up a sweet Beth Orton ballad with an intrusive Katy Perry party-anthem. Ack!
I haven’t read the novel this film was adapted from, but according to Wikipedia the sub-plot involving Nora’s alcoholic gal-pal ‘Caroline’ wandering off on a depressing, drunken odyssey was created to add a little more narrative oomph and gross-out “comedy” to the movie. While I concur that Ari Graynor is a very talented comedic actress (and I love the way she threatened to slap Dennings on the commentary track, for making self-deprecating comments about her appearance), I really, really, really hated the scene where she rescued her chewing gum from a dirty toilet bowl, and then put it back in her mouth. Aside from the mild nausea it caused, this whole sub-plot played like a puritanical warning against the dangers of drinking, in light of the way N&N smugly declared their “straight-edge” status in an earlier scene.
I also think that it might have helped us to understand why Nick was so hung-up on his ex, ‘Tris’ (Alexis Dziena), if we’d seen them together in happier times… because in the present she just came off as a raging bee-yotch to everyone around her. At the end of the film there’s this really contrived confrontation, where N&N arrive at a secret gig (fresh from rounding third base), only to be ambushed by their respective exes, just so they can sack them for a second time, in a weaker way than they did the first time around! Personally, I’d rather the film had ended with the newly loved-up couple staying at Electric Lady Studios, and forgoing the gig altogether (either blanking the phone completely, or reading the text and then deciding not to bother), because it doesn’t make any sense for them to go all the way there, then skip out before the band starts playing, and then decide that they didn’t really miss anything, because being with each other is the main event after all. They didn’t need to physically leave the couch to reach that realisation, imho.
In conclusion, this film was totally worth watching for the Nick and Norah scenes (particularly the “Tikkun Olam” exchange, which actually made me tear up a little), but the more I think about the non-N&N scenes, the less attached I feel to it overall.
Note: The DVD has a featurette on it called “A Nick and Norah Puppet Show by Kat Dennings”, which is basically just the actress playing with paper dolls of the main characters in front of a static video camera… but it’s pretty damn funny all the same. It also makes me suspect that the more endearingly playful aspects of her character on 2 Broke Girls are based on the actress herself… though I can’t really back that up with any hard evidence.