In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, there's a scene in which a drunken teenage girl drops her gum and cell phone into a feces- and vomit-filled public toilet. She then reaches in to pull out the phone, and immediately puts it to her ear. She pulls out the gum, too, and puts it back in her mouth. It's all as revolting as it sounds, so much so that it elicited a huge reaction of groans and laughter at a screening mostly comprised of college students.
It's notable to mention this scene because it's an uncharacteristically crude moment in an otherwise sweet, good-natured teen angst romantic comedy. It's almost as if director Peter Sollett conceded one gross-out gag so the rest of the film could be a genuine and earnest exploration of teenage love and lust, which is something the film accomplishes quite successfully.
High school senior and hopeless romantic Nick (Michael Cera, Juno and Superbad) has been dumped by his skanky girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), and it feels like the end of the world. He really just wants to sit home and sulk. But he's in a band called The Jerk Offs, and his bandmates (Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron) talk him into playing a gig in New York City.
At the gig are Tris and her new beau Gary (Zachary Booth), as well as two of Tris' acquaintances from their all-girl private school, Norah (Kat Dennings) and the aforementioned drunk girl, Caroline (Ari Graynor). After a complex series of events, Caroline goes missing while Nick and Norah cruise the Big Apple in his beat up yellow Yugo, which allows the two to bond while figuring out where their favorite band is playing.
The remarkable thing about the film, which is based on the popular book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, is not just the affable chemistry between Cera and Dennings. Nor is it the spot-on humor throughout, or the gay burlesque segments that fit perfectly into the bizarre events of the evening. No, the truly remarkable thing is that there's no traffic in New York City throughout the night, and that Nick is able to park his crappy Yugo right in front of clubs, bars, restaurants and even fire hydrants as needed. Even better, Nick and Norah have access to all sorts of bars and clubs that people under 21 could never in their wildest dreams get into.
Ah, what it is to be young. There's a sense of earnest sentiment here that will have older audience members remembering those great all-nighters they spent with friends, when each song and each drink felt better than the last. Now combine that with the experience of discovering love—not necessarily physical attraction, but what love is and could mean—and you have a movie that for some will be a mirror of the past, and for others will be a mirror of the present.
If you have ever enjoyed going out with friends, falling in love and embracing those great nights that you'll relive in your mind and heart forever, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a movie for you.