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Joseph’s Lexically Limited Review of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Late in the movie, Norah tells Nick about the Judaic concept of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that translates to “repairing the world.” It turns out to be the perfect phrase to chart the course of two characters who begin the film broken but find solace in one wild New York night. [view trailer | find the book]

Nick (Michael Cera) begins the movie not with Norah but in the bedroom amidst photos of Tris (Alexis Dziena), the lying, manipulating heartbreaker who has reduced Nick into a blubbering sack of tears, rambling voice mails, and mix CDs. Norah (Kat Dennings) goes to the same private school as Tris and uses the tossed-away mixes as a way to escape Tris’s cutting comments, her best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor)’s constant state of drunkenness, and her father’s shadow of fame.

Nick also happens to be the only straight boy in the queercore band the Jerk Offs (played by Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron), and they soon arrive to pull Nick out of his stupor and out to New York City, where they have a show the same night that Nick’s favorite band, Where’s Fluffy?, is playing a secret show. Where’s Fluffy? happens to be Norah’s favorite as well, and soon the entire cast finds themselves at the Jerk Offs’ show in preparation. To prove to Tris that she isn’t a boyfriend-less loser, Norah goes over and makes out with the first single guy she sees. That guy just happens to be Nick.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist winds its script around the strengths of its two leads. As characters, Nick and Norah’s ultra-hip energy are toned way down in favor of stressing the moments between the two. Michael Cera’s nervous, quiet stutter and bashful smile blend well with Dennings’s distant coolness to create a believable night in which two people can meet each other and fall in and out of love faster than you can ask, “Where’s Fluffy?”

In between, humorous interludes featuring gay holiday cabaret, an awkwardly sexy dance on the hood of a Yugo, and a disgustingly well-traveled piece of gum set up each emotional beat so well that everyone in the theater was groaning, awww-ing, and cheering Nick & Norah until they “see red” (you’ll get it once you see the movie). This is a can’t-miss film not just for teens but for anyone with a heart.

~Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

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