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Oct 6, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Like most people that write movie reviews regularly, I have an unwritten rule about not reading other reviews of a film before I write my own (much less before I see a film), unless I don't particularly care about the film in question. This rule has a couple exceptions, naturally. On a typical night when Mrs. Fletch and I return from a trip to the theater, I can often be found reading the review of the film we saw that's featured in Entertainment Weekly, the (Phoenix) New Times, or both. Still, when I do read those, I try not to let them pepper their thoughts into my reviews, choosing instead to try and forget them as quickly as I read them.

This time, however, I can't get the words of New Times reviewer Robert Wilonsky out of mind, if only because they were in such sharp contrast to my thoughts while immediately leaving the theater.

In his short review, Wilonsky compares and contrasts Nick and Norah to director Peter Sollett's 2002 film, Raising Victor Vargas. In conclusion, he states, "From its indier-than-thou soundtrack...to its split-second hipster cameos (Devendra Banhart, Seth Meyers, John Cho, Kevin Corrigan), this after-hours romantic comedy plays like the exact opposite of Victor Vargas: Where that movie was organic, with every scene hitting just the right note and feeling so magically accidental, Nick and Norah plays like something crafted in a lab by 54-year-old hucksters trying to sell shit to the kids under the cheerless guise of "alternative." Now, I haven't seen Victor Vargas, but while watching Nick and Norah (and the audience), two things struck me more than anything else: 1) I was in the midst of one of those defining "old" experiences where I felt like I was missing something that "the kids" were in on, and 2) this movie felt real, and probably more real to the tweens in the audience than it ever would to me.

Though the plot and some of the writing is pretty standard fare (think Swingers meets Harold & Kumar minus 10 years), the movie was a sort of revelation. This film that features multiple gay characters (and a trip to an underground gay club), the aforementioned indie-rock soundtrack, and a jaunt into the "queercore" scene (which, of course, I've never heard of), is not an independent film; it's a major motion picture released by Columbia Pictures and starring faces from blockbuster comedies. And yet, there was no great hullabaloo about anyone's orientation or religion - these topics that so many people so many years older than the cast can't get over were just part of the character's lives - with no more thought put to them than the clothes on the character's backs. These "plot points" didn't feel manufactured by some studio exec to me - they felt exactly the opposite, as though somehow this film had escaped focus groups and tweaking and homogenizing to the point that no one anywhere would ever be offended by anything.

Whether this has more to do with the age of the actors and intended audience or the setting for the film (Lower East Side Manhattan) is not a question that I can accurately answer. Most likely, it's a combination of the two; regardless, it was damned refreshing.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

11 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"

Daniel Getahun said...

Right on. "Refreshing" is the word that headlined my review. I completely agree with your observations about the non-deal about what used to be a lot of possibly touchy subjects. Plenty of talk of teen sex here as well - odd for a PG-13 rating.

Let it be said that Raising Victor Vargas was easily, easily one of the best movies of 2002. In fact, I'm going to add it to my list of underrateds.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

John Cho and Seth Meyers are hipsters? Huh...that's pretty much news to me.

Fletch said...

And I will add Victor Vargas to my list of movies that I need to see. Good to hear a rave from a trusted source.

Paul, stop being such a hipster. Did you know that Kramer is a "hipster doofus?"

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I can't help it man, it's in my blood to the point that when I saw the trailer for Nick & Norah, I was all like "Man, they're pandering to me...but that soundtrack!"

Sadly, not a joke.

Kramer's hip.

Daniel Getahun said...

Talk about a trusted source - Vargas is rocking a 104-review 96% fresh on RT, and 100% among top critics no less.

Guess I can't make a case for it as being underrated after all.

Jason Soto said...

It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. I was a bit dissapointed.

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

Robert Wilonsky hosts a trailer show on HDNet, the guy is absolute gold.


This movie was really great, except it was just okay.

Does that make any sense. Let me explain...

It had the makings of something more than it was. It also had some great sequences. Particularly the scene in which Nick and Norah get busy in the studio.

But when I left the theatre, I was not that impressed and didn't have the urge to ever see it again.

Fletch said...

Joseph - My feelings on Nick and Norah are generally the same, though for some reason, I'm hiking it up a bit based on my perception that the kids will absolutely love it (which may be wrong). In other words, I recognize it as something potentially special, just not necessarily for me.

smirkingrevenge - thanks for the tip. I read the New Times (Village Voice) reviews every week, and I generally agree with them and respect them more than most other publications. This time, I just thought it was funny how far apart our opinions were.

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