September 15, 2008 by  

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist


Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Michael Cera and Kat Dennings help out a drunk friend in "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist."

Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis Dziena
Directed by: Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas”)
Written by: Lorene Scafaria (debut)

There’s a point in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” when Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are walking through the streets of New York City where I was hoping screenwriter Lorene Scafaria would use some creative license and make the film break rank and venture into a teenage version of “Once.” Instead of thoughtful humor and tangible relationships, however, “Playlist” parties hard enough to become just another expected teenage adventure.

Tending to his broken heart after getting dumped on his birthday by his girlfriend Tris (Dziena), Nick O’Leary (Cera) is coerced by his bandmates to go into the city to play a scheduled show and start moving on with his life. His fun-filled night starts when he meets Norah (Dennings), a friend of Tris’ who asks Nick to be her boyfriend for five minutes so she can prove to her naysayers that she hasn’t come to the club alone.

Soon, the subtle encounter leads to Nick and Norah running around New York looking for their favorite band’s secret show. A subplot comes by way of Norah’s other friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), who is supposed to be driven home by Nick’s gay bandmates but is so drunk and confused she wakes up in their van and thinks she has been kidnapped. Along with searching for the secret show, Nick and Norah now have to look for Caroline, too.

As always, Cera makes dweeby look so effortless and matches well with Dennings and her poised character. The dynamic works fine for the most part, but “Playlist,” adapted from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, simply gets too comfortable within its narrative. It’s an easy-going gig having to watch these kids talk about music and listen to music, but there’s not much more they offer.

It’s not a total miss for director Peter Sollett, whose 2002 debut film “Raising Victor Vargas” was one of the year’s pleasant surprises. He doesn’t match the strong characters of his first film, but he’s still able to sail smoothly on the natural likeability of Cera and Dennings.

Other than being an emo kid’s dream soundtrack, “Playlist” could be the little brother (or at least the third cousin twice removed) of “High Fidelity” if it was able to match its sharp wit and sarcasm. It tries, but the script can only go as far as Cohn and Lavithan’s creation will take it. A couple extra bar-hopping scenes at 4 a.m., and I was petered out by the same ol’ shenanigans.

Grade: C+

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