I know exactly what she means. The film is smart without being pretentious, funny without being absurd and touching without being overly sentimental. Mostly it’s a good time spent with two of the most endearing young actors I’ve seen in years, and ultimately that’s what makes it a real success.
Set on a wild night in New York City, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist follows Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, two high school seniors with a shared love of indie music and, eventually, each other.
Cera has yet to be anything less than brilliant, from three great seasons of Arrested Development through Superbad and Juno and now this, his first headlining role. He has a gift for making geekdom somehow cool. In this film, he plays a bass player with two hot girls competing for him, but with the same combination of innocence and guile he always brings to the table. He’s the kid who’s smarter than everyone in the room, but in a depressing way, because he knows it won’t get any better than this. I’m curious to see how his talent will translate to adult roles… he’s so perfectly suited for the high school ones.
Then there’s Dennings, a relative unknown who completely owns the screen whether she’s on it or not. I had seen a few of her YouTube clips, which consisted of her dancing awkwardly and bouncing cheese off a trampoline, but I had no idea what a winning actress she is. She’s also classically beautiful in the way the quiet girls usually are, while the show-offs have those baby doll faces that will barely last them through college.
And I’d be remiss not to mention Ari Graynor, another unknown who nearly steals the movie with her portrayal of Caroline, Norah’s party girl friend. Graynor is hilariously fearless, with a refreshing lack of vanity and splendid comic timing.
There’s not much to say about the plot, which essentially boils down to Nick and Norah navigating obstacles on their way to finding out they were made for each other. I’ve read some comparisons to Before Sunset, but this film has a much more conventional structure, with circumstances and supporting characters responsible for the conflict. It ain’t Before Sunset, and those expecting it to be will be disappointed.
But if you expect laughs, great music, beautiful New York scenery and 90 minutes with two amazingly charismatic young actors, you are in for a treat.