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Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Another high school comedy; yeah, that’s what this world needs. I approached this with about as much enthusiasm as if I were attending another Will Ferrell film. But to my surprise, director Peter Sollett and lead actress Kat Dennings have come up with an entertaining light romantic comedy.

The simple story is that Nick (Michael Cera of “Juno”) has been dumped by his longtime girl friend, Tris (Alexis Dziena). He is the only straight player in a gay band. One night they go to play at a spot and Tris shows up with her new boyfriend. So does Norah (Dennings). At the urging of his gay bandmates, Nick and Norah hook up. The McGuffin is that Norah’s friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor), gets drunk, then lost, so Nick and Norah go looking for her and the locale of a hot new band. In the process they slowly fall for one another.

Even though it is entertaining, that’s not to say it doesn’t raise issues. All these people are teenagers in high school. Yet they all stay out all night. There isn’t a parent in sight. As I said, Caroline gets drunk. Unprotected copulation seems rampant. Is this an accurate reflection of today’s teenagers? Is there no parental supervision?

There are also some unnecessary gross-outs, apparently to appeal to the teenage intellect, like a piece of gum that gets chewed by most of the characters before the movie ends, and a vomiting scene that I could have done without. Most adults with a registerable IQ will probably find these scenes as off-putting as did I. I saw this with real people, not at a screening, and even my audience groaned at several scenes involving Caroline and her gum.

These scenes shouldn’t be enough to keep adults away from this film, however, because in the end it is a sweet romantic comedy, greatly buttressed by an exceptional understated performance by Dennings. In fact the film only sings when Dennings is onscreen. Although Dziena gives a good performance as the spoiled princess, this film belongs to Dennings. Cera is the lead actor, but he is just repeating his role from “Juno” as the nerd who for some unknown reason is found extraordinarily attractive by women who look like movie stars.

There is one factual boner that should be mentioned. A cell phone is dropped into water and retrieved, after which it works perfectly. I am aware of no cell phone that can be immersed in water without being rendered totally unworkable and unfixable. You drop a cell phone in water, you get a new cell phone.

My final criticism is the age of the actresses playing these teenagers. Since they are all in high school, they should be no older than 18 years-old. Yet Dennings is 22, Graynor 25, and Dziena 24. Aren’t there any teenaged actresses alive any more? Or do the filmmakers want to make sure they look like they are old enough to be as sexually mature and active as the characters they create are? Could it be that showing actual 17- and 18-year old girls, who look their age, so sexually active and promiscuous might not be as palatable to a middle-aged audience?

The sound track is filled with rock music by groups with names that most adults won’t recognize but will probably appeal to the teenagers who might find the grossness amusing. Unlike the grossness, the music isn’t bad.

October 4, 2008