"Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist" sounds like a "High Fidelity" for the iTunes generation, which also sounds like a hipster disaster waiting to happen. I'm sorry, but to paraphrase an old English teacher, two-inch pixels on a screen will never be as impressive as a record collection, and the last thing the suffering music world needs is a movie to convince people to make infinite playlists instead of infinite top five lists.
But "Nick & Norah" isn't the contrived indie crowd pleaser it could have been, nor does it dumb down the age-old art of music appreciation for the increasingly CD-less universe. It's refreshing to see that the two characters are natural music lovers and, more importantly, natural teenagers. Their coolly refined character not only drives this film, but also helps make it the rarest kind of PG-13 teen comedy: The kind that actually gets a lot of teenage life, well, right.
Plot-wise, it appears to be by the numbers: Nick (Michael Cera) is a sensitive musician type, the lone straight member of a band most concerned with trying to find a name more vulgar than the one they already settled on. Norah (Kat Dennings) is a clean-cut private school girl with a mysterious level of familial prestige. They are indirectly connected by Tris (Alexis Dziena), a manipulative hottie. Tris dumped Nick, and in true 1992 fashion, he vehemently believes continuous CD mixes are the best way to recapture her heart. The mixes get ignored by Tris but appreciated by Norah, who develops something of a crush on Nick just through his musical taste -- one of the earliest signs that the movie has the right idea. The two happen to meet cute at a club, and eventually end up traveling throughout New York City in search of an elusive underground band, and later, in search of Norah's perpetually drunken best friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor).
So far, nothing that demands a viewing. And sure, the film is a little short on big laughs, filled with caricatures on the sidelines, and isn't going to throw anybody off with its unpredictability.
But forget all those flaws for a second. At the core of this story is a perfectly cast couple fortunately put to perfect use. Nick and Norah are individualistic teen heroes who would leave John Hughes happily impressed. Both considerably more sensible, intelligent and cultured in a much less showy manner than Juno, they're the kind of self-assured adolescent personalities that don't get nearly enough Hollywood credit.
They also happen to be played by two actors who achieve a flawless chemistry. Cera is already known for his roles in "Superbad" and "Juno." Yes, he's still doing the same awkward but charming loser. But no reason to fault him for it just yet -- his act comes across as just as relevant as ever. Dennings is not as well-known, unless you remember her hormonal outbursts from "The 40 Year Old Virgin," but many teenage males are about to discover their newest celebrity crush. Bursting with an exceptional mix of beauty, wit and confidence -- and much more appealing to the average geek than Megan Fox will ever be -- Dennings proves herself someone who should be watched on the way to the top.
When the two are put together, it's a pure joy watching them riff off each other's relationship desperation, nonchalantly bond through a passion for music, and effortlessly be more charismatic than the movie calls for. Even if almost everything else around them is a teen movie standard, the authenticity of the two stars feels, thankfully, like anything but.
Jason Silverstein is a senior at Williamsville North.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Review: Three stars (out of four)