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Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/3/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/4/2009

Given the fact that I created this website, it should be pretty clear that I love movies. From my earliest memories, movies have been an integral part of my life, and I love to study and write about film. But, I also love music. I'm the kind of person who always has a song in my head and I define certain parts of my life by the music that I was listening to at the time. Therefore, you would think that I would absolutely adore a movie about people who love music. Plenty of movies have music fans, but few have the fanatics featured in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. How could I not love it?

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist introduces us to Nick (Michael Cera), a high-school boy who is in a band called The Jerkoffs, whose other two members, Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) are gay. Nick has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena), and he's very depressed about it. So depressed that he tries to refuse attending a gig with the band, but Thom and Dev convince him. Meanwhile, Tris has received the latest mix CD from Nick and she dumps it in the trash. Her classmate, Norah (Kat Dennings), retrieves it, explaining to her best friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor), that she loves his mixes. Norah and Caroline go to a music club in New York City, where The Jerkoffs are playing. Unfortunately for Nick, Tris is there with her new boyfriend. Following an argument between the two, Norah feels that she must prove to Tris that boys like her. Not knowing that Nick is Tris' ex, she kisses him, pretending that they are together. Nick is intrigued by this, especially when he sees Tris' reaction, and he agrees to help Norah get the drunken Caroline home. Instead, Thom and Dev take Caroline and Nick and Norah find themselves thrown together on a quest to find a band who only plays secret shows.

What kind of music do you like? Do you like tight, concise music, or jazzy music which is all over the place? If you are into the latter, then Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist may appeal to you. The film falls into the "slice of life" category as it follows the characters through this one wild night in New York City. Despite the complex synopsis above, and the boatload of characters in the film, there isn't much of a story beyond the basic concept. Nick and Norah meet under very convoluted circumstances and then visit various locales either looking for Caroline, looking for the mystery band, or running into old flames. The movie utilizes some real locales and the characters are earnest, but the film also has an inescapable line of unrealism, as these teenaged characters stay out until dawn in New York City. As usual, where are the parents?

The film has some interesting ideas, but for the most part, it relies on its characters. This is a mistake, as none of them are likable. I take that back, some of them could have been likable, but the performances here are often off-putting. I loved Michael Cera on Arrested Development, and no one working in acting today can do deadpan like him, but a little of that low-key delivery goes a long way and Nick eventually becomes a rock and roll Eeyore. (In contrast, we see Cera being quite spirited in the behind-the-scenes footage.) Kat Dennings has gained some notoriety for her roles as stand-offish teens and she certainly puts that to work here. But, it backfires and Norah simply comes across as a very cold bitch. Which is ironic, because we are supposed to view Tris as the bitch. Caroline is drunk for most of the film, and we never get to know her. (The film's opening was a re-shoot done six months later, so in the original cut of the film, we never saw Caroline sober.) In the end, the only likable characters are Thom and Dev and their "friend" Lothario (Jonathan B. Wright), who delivers the only laugh-out-loud moment in the movie.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist can be viewed as an After Hours for the teen set and it's indy-rock posturing is intriguing. But, the film has so little substance that there isn't much for which the audience to cling. Some of the music is pretty good, but the characters are grating, the story all over the place, and the end result is forgettable. Send this playlist to delete.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist rocks onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, as it shows no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good, but the image is slightly dark at times. The detail level is acceptable and I noted no artifacting or video noise worth mentioning. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good at times, especially in the street scenes. These scenes, along with the crowds in the clubs, offers some nice surround sound effects. The music in the film sounds great and often fills the speakers.

The Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist DVD contains several extras. We begin with a pair of AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features Director Peter Sollett, Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, and Ari Graynor. This is an OK commentary, as the speakers attempt to give scene-specific information. However, this is also a very silly talk, with Dennings and Graynor attempting to joke throughout. (They aren't funny.) Cera and Sollett do manage to talk about locations, reshoots, and the cast. The second has Sollett, Authors Rachel Cohn & David Levithan and screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. This essentially becomes an interview, as Sollett asks Cohn and Levithan about their ideas for the story, and Scafaria comments on how that was translated for the film. There are some interesting anecdotes here, as the writers reveal their influences. The DVD contains nine DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 10 minutes. Seriously, what is with all of the "Hell no!"s? We get a lot of alternate takes and not much new footage here. Of the new stuff, some of it is actually interesting, especially the bus scene. We get a 4-minute reel of OUTTAKES. "A Nick & Norah Puppet Show by Kat Dennings" (5 minutes) is an odd short where the actress uses paper cut-out puppets to reinact the movie. "Ari Graynor's Video Diary" (4 minutes) has the actress showing what daily activity was like on-set. "Storyboard Animations" offers a look at two scenes with optional commentary by Director Peter Sollett and Editor Myron Kerstein. "Faux Interview" (3 minutes) has Eddie Kaye Thomas doing a fake junket interview with Cera and Dennings. "Peter Sollett's Photo Album" is simply a still gallery of on-set hijinx. The final extra is the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Middle Management" by Bishop Allen.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long