In a world populated entirely by curfewless teenagers, where seemingly nobody is checking IDs at the door, the amount of high-pitched drama that can go down on a Friday night between dusk and dawn is virtually limitless. At least an entire teen-movie subgenre has been constructed upon this premise, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is the latest entry to put its sturdiness to the test.
Somewhat reprising his role in Juno (2007), Michael Cera plays Nick, a soft-hearted indie boy who's the bassist in a queercore band with his two best friends (Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron). Nick (straight) is in mourning over his six-month relationship with a vapid über-bitch named Tris (Alexis Dziena), who happens to be school frenemies with Norah (Kat Dennings), who happens to have made a habit of rescuing Nick's lovelorn mix CDs from the succession of trashcans into which Tris has callously tossed them.
We know that Tris is all wrong for this emo boy her hair salon highlights alone scream, "I would never have gone out with this guy in the first place, so why did you cast me in this role?" Regardless, the film further underscores her unsuitability by painting her as an outsider to the world of true indie rock fandom, a poseur who doesn't appreciate a good breakup mix and, worse, fumbles the name of the coolest underground band in town.
Said band, Where's Fluffy, famed for its secret shows, is the engine that drives our awkward hero and heroine and their cohorts out into the night, and the film is basically a tour of young indie rock New York City, with pit stops all over lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and a cameo by freak folker Devendra Banhart. But all the madcap piling in and out of cars and motoring around in search of Fluffy begins to look like work, and so, at times, does Nick and Norah's inch-by-inch romantic progression. A soundtrack packed with signifiers like Vampire Weekend and Band of Horses might not be enough to keep us in the mood, leaving us wishing they would find Fluffy already and let us go home. (Lynn Rapoport)
NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
Opens Fri/3 in Bay Area theaters.