Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (2008) — One magical crazy night

“I never wash my pants. I like to keep the night on them.”

Kyle’s rating: Not enough people really listen to the lyrics

Kyle’s review: Young adult angst combined with “cool” music will get me into the movie theater 99% of the time, regardless of cast or production concerns. Give me comedy cult figure Michael Cera, a ‘we gotta find our favorite band at a mystery location one crazy night in NYC!’ motivation, and a like-at-first-sight/burgeoning-endless-love-over-duration-of-said-crazy-night central plot, and I will go out of my way to ensure no matter where I am (as it happened, on mini-vacation in San Diego) I will see this wondrous film Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist the first night of its release.

And I get a new Vampire Weekend song on the soundtrack? Hooray!

Based on a popular young adult novel, the film adaptation reminded me most of the positive vibes of the kids’ crusade in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not only in the growing realization, throughout its viewing, that there would really be no way they could really squeeze all these shenanigans into one magical night in New York City. Or is that only the interpretation of a traffic-obsessed Californian who think it simply can’t be that easy to get around the Five Buroughs in a beat-up van and a Yugo? Hmm.

But from my personal point-of-view, where I’m past that late teenage/early 20’s naïve/idealistic understanding of life and love yet remain happily adrift in an angsty way (and having only in the past year discovered the joys of skinny jeans), the important thing here is how accurately N&N captures that restless energy you tap into on nights like this one here. Nights where a day spent at school or work is quickly forgotten and all you need is a Red Bull and a slice of pizza to fuel you until dawn. Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane rocked that energy during the daytime to classic effect, but nowadays it’s pretty much all about the nighttime. Of course, isn’t that when all the best live music is, anyway?

I haven’t read the novel, although the charm of the film is enough that I would like to. Neither Nick nor Norah are strong enough characters to further the Ferris Bueller comparison, but Cera and Kat Dennings certainly utilize their considerable skills to sketch excellent performances as two young utterly music-obsessed, wittily-sarcastic high school seniors. Cera doesn’t deviate much from his epic delivery as seen on Arrested Development, but then he really doesn’t have to. Dennings has been consistently great in ‘sarcastic daughter’ roles in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Charlie Bartlett, and really scores here making Norah the sort of girl who recognizes (and falls in love with) Nick’s taste in music as being properly indicative of his inner soul. Isn’t that how it always works? Say it with mixtapes, people!

UPDATE: since writing those first few paragraphs, I took my dad to the gigantic super-***-mart way out in Banning (it gets him out of the house) and found the N&N novel super-cheap, so I took the plunge. Anything to stimulate the economy, right? So I’m looking forward to reading it, possibly tonight: hooray! But the hyper-caffeinated situation I’m in right now dictates I should finish my review RIGHT NOW, so I’m GOING TO. Yes! This brief snippet of my personal life brought to you by: super-caffeinated green tea. Delicious!

I guess N&N will most appeal to you, and arguably make more sense overall, if you’re the sort of person who both believes in love-at-first-vaguely-awkward-encounter and understands what it is to be so into a band (or anything artistic, really) that it seems to be speaking to you and only you… and possibly, hopefully, wonderfully, the love-of-your-life who is the only other person beside you who really and truly “gets” it.

I saw N&N after a nice, recharging coastal vacation and still in the passionate throes of musical clarification with Vampire Weekend’s incredible and currently small creative output. I’m still running on, but no longer primarily defined by, the (self-defined) shoegazing “please look at emo me while I rock out internally” energy of The Shins combined with the vaguely incoherent party-of-one/”I rock the party that rocks the party” primal screams of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Vampire Weekend, and subsequently N&N is all about cherishing your friends, not worrying too much about what you’re wearing (although hoodies are always a good idea), and taking the scary plunge when the opportunity presents itself.

Isn’t that what life is all about, people? You better believe it is!

In retrospect, this is probably another emotional review where ultimately I didn’t say too much about the movie. Not on purpose, honestly. I think N&N is a film that is ultimately well-made and politely interesting to anybody who sees, but resonates deeply with the people who know what it’s like to go see or play a show and end up on an adventure until the sun comes up. Or understands, without cynical reaction, to Nick’s admission that he never washes his club jeans because he likes to retain the “night” on them.

You either get that or you don’t. If you do, N&N is for you. If not, you might enjoy yourself, but I recommend the soundtrack to you instead. Rock on!

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