Monday, May 25, 2009

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

I saw Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist on DVD last weekend. Frankly, it will be hard to tease anything meaninful out of so transparently frivolous a movie, but I'll give it a go.

  • I'll never, ever, chew gum again.

  • Kat Dennings' "Norah" is annoying and unpleasant. Sufficiently so, in fact, to actually be a high school girl. As such, she is the only thing remotely plausible about the entire movie.

  • Michael Cera is to the 'noughties what Anthony Michael Hall was to the eighties: the nerd who makes good. But the nature of the archetype requires these actors to spend their movies, as in Superbad and Juno in Cera's case, or Sixteen Candles in Hall's, exerting themselves in heroic effort to impress the girl. What neither of them is, however, is a plausible leading man in the traditional sense. Nick & Norah asks us to believe a backstory in which Cera's "Nick" holds down Alexis Dziena's "Tris" as a girlfriend for six months prior to the movie's beginnings. It further asks us to believe that Norah and Tris would spend the entire movie competing with each other to be with him. Neither Cera's performance nor the storyline itself gives us any reason why this should be so.

  • Tris, by the way, is more of movieland's traditional fantasy of what high school girls are like. Which is to say, more like what Hollywood screenwriters wish girls had been like when they were in high school.

  • The movie asks us to believe that Norah has already fallen in love with Nick, not because of his actual music (Nick plays bass in a band, which would explain his outsized SMV were the band not so loserish), but because of his -- wait for it -- mixes. Now, I've done mixes myself, but it never crossed my mind that I was engaging in a form of original art. And considering that Norah's father is supposed to be a prominent recording studio honcho, I would think that Norah would not be particularly impressed by his ability to copy other people's music.

  • The movie asks us to believe that high school students (all the central characters appear to be graduating seniors) can easily get served in NYC bars. Now, Mrs. Φ got served in NYC bars as a college student in the eighties. But she was extremely skeptical that they would treat their liquor licenses quite so cavalierly.

  • Um . . . where are the parents? I mean, I know these kids are 18-ish, but do the white moms and dads of northern New Jersey (where all these kids are from, apparently) really not worry when their pride-and-joys go tearing around Manhattan on an all-night drunken orgy? Are high school girls -- not just average girls, but upper middle class prep school girls -- really the unapologetic sluts that this movie makes them out to be? Yet in this movie, the parents are magically airbrushed away. I'm so glad we homeschool. The longer I can shield my daughters from this world, the better off they'll be.

  • The movie asks us to believe that Nick owns and drives a Yugo, that Serbian econo-deathtrap from the early 1980s. I was immediately skeptical: I was once a passenger in a Yugo some 15 years ago, and the experience was truly frightening even then. But today? To get a measure of a Yugo's likely road worthiness, I did a search them on Want to guess how many are presently for sale nationwide?

  • The movie asks us to believe that Nick can get curbside parking in front of the hottest nightspots in Manhattan. ("Hottest" as in, they've got people queueing outside the velvet rope.) Personally, I can't get curbside parking at my suburban mall out here in flyover country.

  • One more thing. Norah and Tal, her boyfriend de jure, are not only Jewish, but stereotypically New York Jewish. The movie shows this in a negative light. Which surprised me, not because New York Jews aren't not-very-nice (I have no idea whether or not this is true), but that a mainstream movie would say this out loud. It means either one of two things: either Jews are losing control of the media, or Jews are sufficiently confident of their social power that they no longer feel a need to clean up for the larger public. The screenplay was written by an Italian, but the underlying novel was written by Jews. So I have no idea what to think.


trumwill said...

Regarding Mix Tapes... I have to side against you here. Collating a CD can be a difficult task. Back before I could make MP3 CD's for the car, I used to put 80-minute CDs together for my car. Deciding how the songs went together was trickier than you might guess. And when you do it wrong, you can feel it when you're listening to the CD through.

Regarding the New York Jews. It's kind of funny that you come at it with the perspective that it's unusual. I remember remarking to my wife about a year ago that Jewish stereotypes are used in ways that would rarely be allowed for other minority groups. They're cheap, their mothers are overbearing, they're insular. Notably, this is more likely to be in comedies where these stereotypes can be exploited gingerly. I speculated that these stereotypes are so easily trotted out (and accepted) because Jews are involved in the presentation. The same way that Jeff Foxworthy can make fun of southerners while Sarah Silverman using similar material would be more aggravating.

Φ said...

I get what you're saying, but my impression of the movie's portrayal of the Jewish characters was that it had a bit more bite than the self-deprecation we see in a typical Garry Shandling act. Have you seen the movie?

As far as mixes are concerned, maybe I just don't get music. I've always been annoyed at the inability of the typical pop radio DJ to play more that a couple of songs in a row that I would actually listen to. Maybe a couple of good ones, followed by a really bad one that doesn't seem to match in any respect what we've been listening to.

Then again, the music on our '80s station is all good!

trumwill said...

I haven't seen the movie, so you could be right that the depiction is uniquely negative.

To me, listening to the radio is different from a CD. Sort of like how hitting "shuffle" doesn't bother me as much as listening to a poorly compiled CD. Then, of course, with radio there are the commercials. There's no setting a mood when every fourth timeslot is dedicated to selling motor oil.

Alison said...

you need to CALM DOWN
it's a movie for a reason..
and a plausible reason for the parents not being around is that they tell their parents they are going to spend the night at a friend's house
and then later do whatever they want