Throughout “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” Peter Sollett’s film adaptation of the young adult novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, New Jersey teenager Norah is constantly being reassured that she is amazing. But is she really that amazing?
She is certainly sympathetic, and she does have her cool and whimsical moments, thanks in part to her stoic portrayal by Kat Dennings. But in weaker moments, she takes more crap than the toilet by Super Cucas. In the 12-(or so)-hour time period that the movie covers, it is revealed that Norah spends her weekends baby-sitting her perennially blacked-out friend, getting belittled by her evil arch frenemy and hooking up with a sleazebag who is clearly using her for her famous father’s connections.
If Norah is truly the free spirit that we are supposed to think she is, with her occasional feisty outbursts and her devotion to living a straight-edge lifestyle, it seems odd that her character would spend half of the film acting like a doormat.
Nick also has wimp tendencies, as played by Michael Cera in a role that mirrors his performances in “Arrested Development,” “Juno” and “Superbad.” He has tried to win his ex-girlfriend back by bombarding her with mix CDs, but she apparently isn’t deep enough to appreciate good indie pop music.
Norah, meanwhile, roams around campus with her head sandwiched between two oversized earphones. Though she doesn’t know Nick, she eagerly digs his discarded mixes out of the trashcan. She accidentally meets the man behind the mixes at a club in New York City, and a series of mishaps eventually forces the two musical soul mates to spend the night cruising around town together.
This film does feature some dialogue that mimics what actual kids might say, and it treats teenage sexuality as normal, without any moral lessons or shock value attached to it. But the thoughtful realism feels tedious at times, mostly due to the uneven, clunky pace of Lorene Scarfaria’s script.
The adventures of Norah’s wasted friend are funny, as is the title characters’ bickering flirtation. But for all its reverence of music, this film is primarily a love letter to Nick and Norah. It’s too bad that they mostly come across as pathetic.