“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
3 out of 5 stars
Teen movies of the past decade tended to parade around Josh Hartnett and Freddie Prinze Jr. as the typical “hot guy.” But like those actors’ current careers, that general depiction of the ideal man is starting to fade away. Hollywood is trading in quarterback jerseys and gelled hair for thick glasses and skinny jeans. In other words, hipsters are the new heartthrobs and their king is Michael Cera.
In his short time as a professional actor, Cera has managed to carve out a pretty deep niche for himself. From his days as the innocent but mildly offbeat George Michael on TV’s “Arrested Development” to his more recent roles in “Juno” and “Superbad,” Cera is today’s go-to guy for a sensitive and attractive leading man. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Cera’s latest character is yet another everyday hipster with a heart of gold.
“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” — not to be confused with the infamous Nick and Nora of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” — tells the story of two college-bound seniors, Nick (Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”), on the ever popular quest to find an obscure band playing at a secret location in New York City. It will surprise no one to discover that while there are obstacles — attention craving ex-girlfriends, drunk best friends and so on — at the end of the night, Nick and Norah have found a soul mate in each other. Or at least a good hookup until the fall when they traipse off to college.
Besides the lack of romantic suspense, “Nick and Norah” is actually a decent film. Cera and Dennings do an excellent job depicting the angst and awkwardness that goes along with discovering you might just be falling for someone. But even though Cera’s character is engaging, it always seems like he’s just playing a version of what can be imagined to be his real-life self.
The rest of the cast is appropriately entertaining, but the true standout supporting actor is the city in which the film takes place. Leaving aside the fact that the characters are able to not only swiftly navigate New York traffic, but also find prime parking outside each hot spot visited (any real New Yorker can tell you this is impossible), the depiction of a wild night out in the city that never sleeps is dead on. With its bright lights, underground music and crowded clubs, the backdrop never overshadows the action between the actors. Instead, it simply contributes to the mood the film wants to convey — cool, but not too cool.
The one part of the film that nags is a small issue with Norah. She’s witty and sarcastic, she’s got awesome sense for music and she’s beautiful; but she spends the entire movie comparing herself to Nick’s tiny and perky ex-girlfriend. The constant reminders she gets throughout the movie that she is, in fact, an attractive individual, are intended to illustrate that beauty comes in different packages, but it just makes Norah seem kind of pathetic. She’s a cool chick, and while she rightfully wins that blessed hipster guy in the end, she shouldn’t need to snag him to know that she deserves him.
Ironically, for a movie so devoted to obscure and trendy music, “Nick and Norah” is more like a top-40 pop song: generally pleasant but lacking substance. This isn’t to say it’s a bad movie — it’s not. It does, however, cement Cera’s status as an alternative hottie, appeasing Urban Outfitters and Chuck Taylor factories everywhere.