Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

When your big Hollywood star power is coming from Kat Dennings and Michael Cera, you probably are not setting out to make a whole lot of money at the box office.

When your talent is centering around the same duo, you probably are setting out to make a good movie with plenty of hipster credibility.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is setting just this stage as it opens Friday the third. Dennings and Cera are both talented young actors who should get lots of prime roles in the months and years to come because they both set the groundwork of smaller roles in which they deliver infallible performances and land bigger and better roles along the way.

This is the first time we see Cera as a romantic lead in his career and he actually starts off the movie by showing why he hasn't landed such roles. He hearkens back to his old George Michael role from Arrested Development by delivering a whimpering, mildly pathetic kid who seems afraid of life. He does that role well, but we've seen it before.

As the story progresses, Cera steps outside of his typecasting and shows his talent with a complex character who is at times awkward and funny while turning to self-assured and serious at other parts.

Dennings hits the ground running as a funny, smart, tough girl who seems to be just gliding through her quiet private school existence. Like Cera's character, Norah proves to be equally complex as she weighs following in her father's footsteps to a sure-thing job versus going to college to make a life of her own.

The romantic part of the romantic comedy shows its face early and often, but starts with Nick pining for a love lost and Norah pining for a love nonexistent. Both characters are in love with an idealized notion. Nick with a girl that his ex never really was. Norah with a guy she's never met but is certainly not the guys she has known so far.

Supported by a lovable mix of miscreants and good-guys, the lead characters gallivant around Manhattan in search of a live show by an illusive band. Nick and Norah are clearly meant for each other, if only Nick could get over his ex and realize it.

Yeah, it sounds like a bit of a cliched idea for a story line, but endearing performances from the two leads, interesting secondary characters and dialogue that plays more natural and intelligent than most teen movies makes this film a lot more watchable than most of its peers.

Most teen movies play to a dumber crowd, but Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist seems to be presenting them as I remember kids being when I was young. The characters are not mature or experienced, but are clearly intelligent and have bigger goals than just getting high, drunk, laid or all three.

While the movie overall is a little more saccharin sweet than I usually prefer, the script is a very strong first offering from Lorene Scafaria (based on a novel that I didn't read, so I'm not sure about the source material). Peter Sollett, an indie director who is treading for his first time on less serious fare, also sets his mainstream Hollywood catalogue up right with a great job out of the gate.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist gets a B+ and would make a great date movie since it's got a fair amount of both romance and comedy.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

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