Michael Cera continues to bank on his awkward “Juno” charm as sensitive guitarist Nick, the only straight member of his garage band, “The Jerk-Offs.” Nick has just been dumped by his “hot” girlfriend Tris (Alexa Dziena) and, in an attempt to win her back, he sends her a series of breakup CDs, which Tris continues to throw away. Tris’ frenemy, Norah (Kat Dennings), collects each CD from the trash and admires Nick’s musical taste without even knowing who he is.
Within the first 10 minutes of the film, the audience could expect director Peter Sollett to deliver a seemingly predictable story of a high school love triangle gone wrong — which, come to think of it, is always enjoyable when done right. The meeting of two star-cross’d lovers who must overcome impossible obstacles in order to be together is a surefire form of entertainment. But unlike so many other teen movies, or remakes of Shakespeare plays, “Nick and Norah” creates relatable, real-life characters instead of high school cliches.
Tris shows up to “The Jerk Offs” gig flaunting her new beau in front of Nick. In an effort to not seem dateless, Norah asks Nick, whom she’s been eying for the entire night, to pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes. Norah unknowingly infuriates Tris, causing Tris to chase Nick for the rest of the movie.
Nick and Norah are both wonderfully awkward and realistic. For perhaps the first time in movie history, the audience can relate to the unsure feelings that Nick and Norah have about each other. But not quite as realistic are the couple’s crazy adventures over the course of the night.
This film should really be called “Nick and Norah’s Awkward, Infinite and Odyssey-like Evening.” The entire film takes place in a period of under 24 hours, which makes the story line easy to follow, but a little tedious. Hey, what would American youth be without traveling the streets of New York City in a beat up car with a person you’ve never met before until sunrise, right?
The story continues with the search for popular alternative band “Fluffy,” whose performance location is revealed in a series of multimedia clues placed all over the city. In the quest for “Fluffy,” Norah and Nick are left alone with only one thing linking them together: Tris. Their relative histories with Tris make for some comical dialogue between the two.
After the disappearance of Norah’s drunken friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), who was supposed to be closely monitored by Nick’s gay band mates, “Where’s Fluffy?” turns into “Where’s Caroline?” The pure hilarity of the situation leaves the audience laughing non-stop for the whole middle-section of the film.
While neither Cera nor Dennings plays a groundbreaking role, the two stick to what they do best: getting the audience to love them. Cera’s typecast, gawky, teenaged nerd-throb is well appreciated. He, once again, brings his dry sense of humor to the big screen, which is balanced perfectly by the superficial nature of Tris and Caroline and the utter flamboyance of his band mates. Dennings also manages to play the sarcastic teenager well, but she betrays more vulnerability this time around, making her much more charming.
Although the movie showcases new talent and classics alike, the its titular “Playlist” almost goes unnoticed. “Nick and Norah” is not a movie musical.
Ultimately the film achieves exactly what it seeks to. It delivers the sweet story of two teenagers who have no idea who they are, or, for that matter, who the other is. The story is enchanting, and, more importantly, entertaining. At no point does the film pretend to be a piece of moral or artistic genius, but it does not need to. Forget Lohan and Ronson, Nick and Norah are this fall’s it couple.