Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Indie director Peter Sollett makes a less than exciting transition to a studio picture with Columbia's romantic comedy, “Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.” The film is not bad, just uneven, plodding along from scene to scene, which proves frustrating in terms of overall emotional impact.

Sollett, you may recall, made a strong impression with his feature debut, “Raising Victor Vargas,” which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Fest and played in other international events to great acclaim.

“Nick & Norah” world-premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, in the Special Presentations section, and Sony will release the movie October 3. With some luck, and the right marketing, this romantic feature could be embraced by young viewers as a date movie.

“Nick & Norah” does have some artistic merits and a certain charm, particularly in the early chapters. Among other distinctions, it's good to see the likable and gifted Michael Cera, who has given only good performances thus far, in “Juno” and “Superbad,” stretching a bit on his way to more challenging parts.

The premise could have easily served a feature by Richard Linklater as it depicts two youngsters, thrust together for one long, hilarious, sleepless night of adventures, in a world of mix tapes, late-night living, and loud music. Sounds familiar It should. This was the very premise of Linklater's two great conversation pieces, “Before Sunrise” in 1994 and its equally poignant 2005 sequel, “Before Sunset,” both starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

In Sollett's film, based on a screenplay by Lorene Scafaria from the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the two youngsters are played by Cera and the charming Kat Dennings (who was Catherine Keener's daughter in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”).

Cera's Nick is a guy who frequents New York's indie rock scene while nursing a broken heart, playing the bass with his queer core band, The Jerk Offs. Dennings' Norah is a bright woman blessed (and cursed) with inquisitive mind, who's questioning most of her assumptions and pseudo-facts about the surrounding world. (Not to worry, the film is not metaphysical or pretentious).

As the format of romantic films dictates, initially, the duo seems to have nothing in common, though we quickly learn that they have similar tastes in music, which accounts for a lot, considering their age and inexperience.

Also pre-determined by the genre is the notion that the couple should have a chance, preferably cute first meeting, which will lead to an all-night probing (and overly chatty) session. Here, the encounter is driven by a quest to find the secret show of a legendary band, not the most exciting reason, which feels contrived.

Would their odyssey become a fateful date, one with the strong potential of changing their perceptions and perhaps the rest of their lives

On one level, following the lead of Woody Allen's quintessential New York features, “Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist” serves as a love letter to youth, destiny and Downtown Manhattan. On another, the movie bears echoes of Scorsese's indie masterpiece, the darkly humorous and more sinister “After Hours” (1985), in that it takes us viewers along for a wild ride.

The saga's second part becomes a music-fueled tour of the streets of the Lower East Side, centering on one couple, trying to figure out who they want to be, and more specifically, where their favorite band is playing.

In its good moments, which are spread rather unevenly throughout the narrative, “Nick & Norah” is a movie of self-discovery with culture collision serving as the bigger, broader issue the background.

Consider the following culture clash: Music lover Nick is the “only straight” member of The Jerk Offs. A regular on New York's rock scene, he's mourning his last romance and lost relationship alone, in his suburban New Jersey bedroom, while making an endless stream of mix CDs for his shallow ex-lover Tris, (Alexis Dziena).

For her part, Norah is the daughter of record industry royalty, with good college prospects, but she finds herself questioning everything in her life, particularly her on-again off-again relationship with the opportunistic Tal (Jay Baruchel). A classmate of the heartless Tris, Norah is now busy retrieving Nick's mix CDs from the trash into which Tris routinely discards them. For her, the CDs rejects provide a window into the heart and mind of an unknown male, who might turn out to be her perfect soul mate, musically and otherwise.

Once individual conflicts and dilemmas are exposed, we move onto the psycho-social dynamics of the couple as couple. Nick and Norah's worlds collide, when their favorite band, an elusive underground sensation called “Where's Fluffy,” announces a surprise concert in New York. The duo and the band's other fans plan to spend the night trolling Manhattan, even though they have only partial, obscure clues as to their whereabouts.


Nick – Michael Cera Norah – Kat Dennings Thom – Aaron Yoo Dev – Rafi Gavron Caroline – Ari Graynor Tris – Alexis Dziena Gary – Zachary Booth Tal – Jay Baruchel


A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures and Mandate Pictures presentation of a Depth of Field production. Produced by Kerry Kohansky, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Andrew Miano. Executive producers: Joe Drake, Nathan Kahane, Adam Brightman. Co-producers: Nicole Brown, Kelli Konop. Directed by Peter Sollett. Screenplay, Lorene Scafaria, based on the novel by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan. Camera: Tom Richmond. Editor: Myron Kerstein; music, Mark Mothersbaugh; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; production designer, David Doernberg; art director, Chuck Renaud; set decorator, Sara Parks; costume designer, Sandra Hernandez; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Damian Canelos; supervising sound editor, Daniel Pagan.

MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 Minutes.