Elaine at the movies: “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Elaine Blum

For me, the label “romantic comedy” implies predictability, excessive cuteness and love-conquers-all nonsense that would NEVER happen. However, I do still enjoy a good romantic comedy for that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes me think, “Where are guys like that?!”
That being said, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” manages to keep all the good aspects of a romantic comedy while avoiding the gag-me clichés.
The basic premise: Nick and Norah, two high-schoolers, are each in search of an underground concert to be given by their favorite band. This leads to the two meeting and, through fortuitous events and the goading of their friends, Nick and Norah decide to go in search of the concert together. Complications and hilarity ensue.
The best thing about this movie is its awkward dialogue. It feels like what real high-schoolers would actually say instead of some eloquent dialogue contrived from what a middle-aged writer thinks a high-schooler would say. It is real, in all of its awkward glory and obvious lameness that makes us laugh.
We identify with that feeling of not having that perfectly witty thing to say. We have all been in that situation, talking to someone we like and feeling positive that what is coming out of our mouth is absolutely ridiculous. It is this essence of awkward high-school conversations that “Nick and Norah’s” captures exactly.
And what better actor to embody this teen awkwardness than Michael Cera! This is a typical role for him, i.e. the awkward, geeky adolescent; Cera’s other roles include George Michael on “Arrested Development” and Paulie Bleeker in “Juno.” I have yet to see him in a role outside of this category, though I admit these are the only three I have seen him in. Part of me wonders if Cera can carry off any other type of role, but I know I enjoy seeing him as the awkward adolescent way too much to suggest such things.
One of the high points of the movie comes right in the beginning when Nick leaves a rambling message for his ex-girlfriend in which he explains that he is skipping school because he has “… projects … nothing to do with you, of course.”
Not only does this one line showcase the insecurity of adolescence, but it gave me hope that this movie would not be just another formulaic romantic comedy — I was not disappointed.
So what can I tell you about this movie other than that the kids are awkward? Well, it has a host of amazing one-liners and there is never a dull moment. Plus it is thought-provoking at times, which is more than you can say for most other romantic comedies. This movie has substance.
Perhaps it did not convince me entirely that such adventures could really take place. Nonetheless, I laughed for a good portion of the movie and left the theatre satisfied. And yes, it did leave me questioning “where are guys like that?!” — but not in the gag-me sort of way.