Infinity certainly seems to be becoming a theme in quirky indie movies, from the ubiquity of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower's: "I feel infinite," to the mainstream blockbuster success of Keira Knightley and Steve Carrell's: Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World. For what could be more infinite than oblivion? So when I found myself with an Amazon gift token to hand and an hour to spare to browse through my (incredibly lengthy) Amazon wish list, it was no surprise that my thoughts continued along in this vein. One of the first movies to catch my eye was the enchantingly unusual yet romantic looking Nick & Norah's (Michael Cera and Kat Dennings) Infinite Playlist. Two further factors encouraged me to hit the Order Now button: firstly, its set on one night in New York City, possibly number 1 on my list of Places I Most Want To Go, and secondly, being centred around music, with the two title characters engrossed on a journey to find a secret show by their favourite band, it was sure to appeal to my inner music geek. Oh, and it was under £2.99 with free shipping. So when the parcel arrived today and I eagerly tore off the wrapping, I was very excited. Its becoming rarer for me to discover a (recent) rom-com that I haven't seen and want to watch and when this happens I like to actually own the DVD. And with its premise "EVERY NIGHT HAS A SOUNDTRACK" it certainly fitted the bill. Oh, and as you can see, it also has great posters. What more could you want?
I also think I sort of want to be her.
(Before you begin, this will contain probably all the possible spoilers there could be. Don't say I didn't warn you.) The story begins in a teenage boy's (Cera) bedroom where he's leaving a message, for what is clearly not the first time, on his ex-girlfriend's mobile. With his walls covered in photos of the pair of them and a mix-CD he is making for her (again, definitely not the first one) burning in his laptop, it couldn't be made more plain how very not over her he is. The action then cuts to an New York City high school where a teenage girl (Denning's) is leaving a classroom. She is in her own world, dancing to the music playing through the huge pair of headphones she is wearing. With the two romantic leads now established, the camera returns to the boy. Nick's friends arrive and after some drama - he is depressed over his ex and "taking a mental health day," - they convince him to set off to play their show. Meanwhile, Norah is also making her Friday night plans with a couple of other girls - one of whom is Nick's evil ex,Tris, as well as Caroline, the best friend and subject of the later drunk-girl-search-party (very entertaining) sub-plot.
While Cera and Denning's don't for a minute resemble actual 18 year olds, and to be honest from the DVD cover art I was expecting a storyline centering on a couple of twenty-something characters which would have been more plausible, at least to begin with, they do in fact do a very good job of conveying the awkwardness and uncertainty of teenage-ness and once you suspend your initial disbelief are very convincing in their roles. Michael Cera seems to be forever playing this type of character - the sensitive nerd with a heart - while I have only ever seen Kat Denning's as Max in Two Broke Girls, a far more brash and confident role, so it was interesting to see her playing a quieter and far less self-assured "post-Juno" type teen. I also loved how the film explored her vulnerabilities and confusion. Without making her the centre-piece of what is essentially an ensemble-movie, Norah is beautifully realistic and easy to identify with, in everything from her uncertainty in relationships and shyness to the choices she makes about leaving home and finding something afresh for herself. Her music taste also makes her an appealing character. What do "The Cure" cure anyway? Being known as "The Cause" would be a better name, surely? I've often thought this but not in so many words. It is literally the best thing in a movie when a character, especially a character you can love, voices an unconscious thought you could never pin down. Much of this is due to Kat Dennings' incredible acting, and also: She Is Hot. Its just a fact. People need to go read her blog too: the girl is just as funny and lovable in her own words too. http://www.katdennings.com/ I don't know whether I would rather be her, be her best friend or just marry her. Its definitely a girl crush. Thoughts?
Most of the plot from then on focused on a) Nick's band mates setting him and Norah up (or rather forcing them into a car together,) b) Nick and Norah getting over both of their toxic past relationships and c) the hunt for "Where's Fluffy?" the band that brought them all together in the first place combined with d) tracking down the out-of-control Caroline. Unlike many typical awkward-comedies (I feel like this could be a whole new sub-genre - mostly starring Michael Cera), the events all take place on one fateful night in NYC. The city almost acts as a character in the story, throwing events and strange coincidences in the faces of the people out for the night, and as the viewers follow the errant Caroline and her ever-more disgusting bubble gum across the city and through various mouths and sewage systems, it becomes clearer how the nature of this city and growing up there has affected these people. From the yellow "cab," to the music, to the food and the general gross-ness of a Friday night-to-early-morning in the city, even to the cover art of Nick's incredibly pathetic mix-CDs, this movie is like the essence of New York (or what I and millions of other people who never been there imagine it to be like) condensed and bottled. Also, I know that this was 2008 but did people still listen to CDs then? I don't actually remember which is a bit worrying.
While I, along with many other people in my generation (I hope) would like to live in a world where a person's sexuality and who they choose or don't choose to love is not an issue, or at least not something needing to forever be commented on, it is necessary to mention as a part of this film. Tom and Dev, Nick's two band mates, as well as Lothario, the guy who tags along for the ride, are just portrayed as people. Normal guys who happen to be gay - it isn't written as their one defining attribute; there is no plotline surrounding it or exploring it particularly; it is just accepted as part of what makes them who they are. While in real life this is obviously the case, this is often not how gay or lesbian characters are portrayed in Hollywood and even though in the movie this is not made an issue of, every review does seem to make a point of this, precisely for that reason. This seems to me, however not having much personal experience with this issue, to be a really good thing and almost a step-forward for movies in general. In my opinion, this factor also contributes to the sense of "New York" as a concept being a real formative part of these characters. Having lived in the big city and had their eyes opened to a far greater and more open variety of people than they would have experienced in small-town or Bible-Belt America has made them into emotionally more mature and rounded people than their contemporaries in other parts of the county. This is presented so well on the show Glee, as it really explores the affect of the small-town, religious mentality present in states such as Ohio and the impact this has on the quality of life on characters such as Kurt, Santana and even to some extent even Finn, who struggles even to acknowledge his friendship and brotherhood with his out-and-proud stepbrother for fear of also being bullied. Another good point about Infinite Playlist is that there are, by my count, no gay jokes, unless made by the guys themselves - importantly avoiding undermining the attitude the film seeks to present: that for these high-schoolers, sexuality really is not worthy of comment. The awkwardness around working this through is to some extent touched on but overall Tom and Dev (and Lothario - although a minor character) are allowed and encouraged to be totally honest and themselves and celebrated for this. We all want to live in a world where this stops being an issue or presented as any different or as a special exception to the "normal" teenage experience - and I believe this film sets out to at least try to make that a reality, even just for a night. As the soundtrack says: "I believe in miracles."
Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoyed my review and I also hope you have been at least slightly inspired to go and watch Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and discover how incredible it is for yourself.