Thursday, February 12, 2009
It's difficult for me to fully explain why I love Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist as much as I do. I guess it's because after watching it several times now, it continues to simply make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It just makes me really happy.
Set in New York City over the course of one chaotic evening, the overall story is of two magically (not tragically) hip high school students and their respective sidekicks trying to find the "rarest show on earth": an after hours show by everyone's favorite band 'Where's Fluffy' (or simply 'Fluffy' for short). What unfolds is nothing short of a crash course in true love.
Nick (Michael Cera) is heartbroken and morose after being dumped by his heinous cunt of a girlfriend after 6 months. He's also the lone hetero in a gay punk band called - at various times throughout the film - "The Jerk Offs", "Shit Sandwich", "Dick Ache" and "Fistful of Assholes". His bandmates Dev and Thom are sick of his brooding nonsense, and convince him to leave Hoboken for a gig in the city...and eventually to find Fluffy.
Norah (Kat Dennings) and her party girl BFF Caroline hear about the super secret Fluffy show after Tris (Nick's ex) discards yet another mix CD he's made for her. Norah's never met Nick, and knows only that the guy who made Road To Closure: Volume 12 is a "poor bastard".
What makes this setup so perfect is that these characters are in love before they even meet. They're already involved in each other's lives without even knowing it. Nick is the latest victim of Norah's frenemy Tris, but all she knows about him is that they're probably musical soul mates. When they finally meet, Norah's simply trying to shut Tris up by making out with her "boyfriend" - an unsuspecting Nick, for whom she's actually doing a huge serendipitous favor. Caroline naturally gets annihilated and needs help getting home, so the gays do Nick a solid and volunteer...giving our hero and heroine a chance to get to know one another. From that moment on, their lives will never be the same.
One thing I love is that the film shows us that the course of true love is generally not smooth. For all intents and purposes, N&N are meeting and falling in love for the first time. Add into the equation that it's all happening over a matter of hours, and it just makes sense. They have all the fights, tender moments and emotional revelations in approximately 8 hours that most couples have over their first few weeks.
The focus shifts temporarily midway to locating a very drunk and barely coherent Caroline somewhere in Manhattan, after the gays inadvertently "lose" her. Luckily Norah knows the poor gal's puking haunts and the adventure continues.
As I watched these unstereotypical, earnest characters make tracks all over the five boroughs, I was amazed at how easy they made it seem. This was perhaps the first movie I've seen that made New York City seem so accessible. Other so-called love letters to NYC usually involve locales that everyday people could scarcely dream of seeing (I'm looking at you, Sex and the City), but N&N and Company make it seem effortless without seeming pretentious. It helps prove the point even more that our titular characters don't drink or do drugs - they just feel right at home in New York City as a neighborhood…not a metropolis.
Caroline (Ari Graynor) steals just about every scene she’s in. Apparently to prepare for the role, Graynor videotaped herself getting trashed in her apartment a bunch of times. This explains SO MUCH. Her performance as a drunken mess was almost a little too realistic, but at the same time overwhelmingly endearing. Not to mention absolutely fucking hysterical.
I think many people overlooked the film due to its pre-defined stigma: it's based on a novel written for young adults. But it's so much more than a "teen romance". Assigning this genre label to a film of this caliber makes me as uncomfortable as watching Andy Samberg - in a cameo as a homeless man - ask Nick if he's ever had sex with a dog ("Don't do it, man. It's not worth it!").
What people would have found if they had given Nick & Norah a chance are the compare-and-contrast differences between young love and real love. Nick's relationship with Tris is portrayed as epic, despite the reality of it only lasting 6 months...during which time Tris was constantly unfaithful. Norah's on-again, off-again ex-boyfriend Tal is only charming her to get to her record-executive father. The quickly budding relationship between Nick and Norah, however...it just rings true. They relate to each other in honest, fundamental ways - usually stemming from their shared love of music.
After all the fuss, food, fighting and fingering – is Where’s Fluffy really worth our characters’ trouble? Herein lies the brilliance. Since not so much as a note of music from the band is ever actually heard, the viewer can draw their own conclusions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the rest of the music featured in the film – but you will – all you need to know about Where’s Fluffy is that they’re the best. They’re your favorite band, and you’d do anything to see them live. That’s the motivation.
In the end, this movie is about the simplicity of love in a world full of complications. Nick’s friend Thom describes it perfectly, while talking about The Beatles. Their first single was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, and that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes the truest, simplest love is like a reward at the end of one crazy night - it’s worth whatever you had to do to find it.