Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s novel and adapted by Lorene Scafaria) was released in UK cinemas a decade ago and age has not been as kind to the film as it may have wished.
The film opens with Nick (Michael Cera, known for his role in Arrested Development) leaving the latest in a long line of somewhat pitiful voicemails for his ex, Tris (Alexis Dziena). We learn about the ‘Playlist’ element of the title early on in the film when we see Norah (Kat Dennings from 2 Broke Girls) receiving one of the mixes that Nick made for Tris, which she subsequently discarded. Status related drama ensues between slight outcast, yet still cool, Norah and resident mean girl Tris in true teen comedy fashion. For the first half an hour or so, it seems as though the film has just the right amount of awkwardness, spontaneity, and alcohol-fuelled misjudgment to be decent, yet predictable.
Within the first twenty minutes, somebody asks “what could go wrong?” and oh, if only they knew. Nick and Norah are both on a quest to find the elusive band ‘Where’s Fluffy?’, only to be tricked into attending an ‘Are You Randy?’ concert instead. Their paths cross when Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend to spite Tris – not realising that he is Tris’ ex – and this is seemingly where things start to deteriorate.
The level of sheer recklessness and general absurdity throughout the majority of the remainder of the film is, at the very least, a little baffling. It is made clear pretty early on that Norah’s best friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor), may have a problem with drinking responsibly which inevitably causes a host of trying situations for Norah. This isn’t helped by the fact that she entrusts Caroline to Nick’s friends who have given no indication that they will actually take care of her (proved later by them just laying her, unsecured, in the back of their van as they drive less than safely) and who promptly lose her.
In the middle of all of the Caroline-related disarray not only is there an abrupt and not entirely welcome appearance from Ben Stiller, but we also learn that Nick does not appear to understand that relentlessly talking about your ex is not how to flirt. This causes some tension, and consequently an argument, between Norah and himself but they soon work things out. All the while, Tris along with her new boyfriend, Gary (Zachary Booth) who she treats terribly (it’s a bit of a mystery why he sticks around until the end of the night) stalks Nick.
For someone who cheated on Nick, she takes it hard when he finally expresses some interest in Norah. In yet another logically questionable move, this eventually leads to her and Nick sitting in a car park in which she attempts to dance for him after rubbing his face with her foot in his car. Not surprisingly, she does not succeed in seducing Nick, resulting in him leaving her alone in the car park, forcing Gary to collect her.
Throughout the film, you do wonder why Nick was with Tris in the first place as she is plainly manipulative. Norah’s ex, Tal (Jay Baruchel), is equally unkind and uncomfortably pushy with her. It is soon clear that he is only with Norah so that he can use her to easily pass his band’s album along to her father, who owns an incredibly famous recording studio. This could be a bit more understandable if it hadn’t have continued for three years.
However, all is not lost. Whilst a significant section of the film is rather questionable (as are several of the jokes throughout) and not exactly impressive, there are some redeeming features. The final twenty minutes or so are definitely an improvement upon the rest of the film. Norah takes Nick to her father’s studio (which Nick was previously unaware of) where they solidify their relationship and actually seem to connect – Nick even manages not to bring Tris up.
To be fair, the ending is sweet in a way. They miss the ‘Where’s Fluffy?’ concert after finding it, opting instead to spend time together without their exes (a wise choice).This all takes place over the course of one, incredibly hectic night, as does the book. In ways, this makes aspects of the plot a tad ridiculous, but in others, it encapsulates the intensity and confusion of youth and director Peter Sollett captures this well.
Overall, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist has not been treated well by time, but it could have been a lot worse. The humour might be a little offensive at times and the plot may be somewhat tedious but the soundtrack is pretty solid, the scenery is well chosen and the ending leaves you feeling sort of warm – maybe because you’re happy for Nick and Norah, maybe because they finally leave Tris and Tal behind, and maybe partly because it’s over.
Are you a fan of this one? Let us know!