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Nick and Norah Offers Charming Cast but Weak Story

  • Stephen McGarvey Executive Editor
  • Updated Feb 05, 2009
<i>Nick and Norah</i> Offers Charming Cast but Weak Story

DVD Release Date:  February 3, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  October 3, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language, and crude behavior)
Genre:  Independent, Comedy, Romance
Run Time:  90 min.
Director:  Peter Sollett
Actors:  Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena, Jonathan B. Wright, Jay Baruchel 

Michael Cera, to borrow a line from 1980s musical icon Huey Lewis, has made it “hip to be square.”

In his most recognizable roles on TV’s Arrested Development and the films Superbad and Juno, Cera plays the geeky hipster with aplomb. His latest film role as the Nick of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist floats across the screen like it was written just for Cera, showcasing his unpretentious charm and carrying an otherwise forgettable movie.

Nick is a sentimental, music-loving high school senior who has just been dumped by girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena). Devastated, Nick spends his time moping around, sequestered in his room burning mix-CDs for his ex in an effort to win her back. But the self-absorbed Tris, happy to be rid of Nick, promptly deposits each one in the nearest trash can when it arrives.

When Tris drags friends Norah (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Ari Graynor) out for a night of clubbing, their first stop is the bar where Nick and his band are playing. At the club, Norah randomly picks a guy out of the crowd to be her “pretend boyfriend” in response to Tris’s bragging about her own new relationship. Unbeknownst to Norah, the guy she picks is “Tris’s Nick.” High jinks ensue.

Nick’s band-mate buddies sense that thoughtful, music-loving Norah is a better match for Nick than the shallow Tris, and begin orchestrating a way for Nick to spend the evening with Norah.  Tris, jealous of their connection, decides she wants Nick back and takes on the role of romantic foil.

At this point the plot takes a back seat to the group's wandering around New York City, alternately searching for the now drunk Caroline who goes missing, and looking for the elusive indie rock band “Where's Fluffy,” while spouting witty dialogue back and forth to one another. Cera and Dennings have great on-screen chemistry, but the dialogue is not as funny or clever as other recent independent film hits like last year’s Juno.

Still, if you can stomach the idea of a bunch of teens club-hopping around the big city all night long, Nick's and Norah’s up-and-down relationship has a certain charm to it. The film implies some thoughtful ideas about music and how it can connect us to one another. Norah, who without Tris’s knowledge, has been rescuing Nick’s CDs out of the trash, calls Nick her musical soul mate. You find yourself wanting these quirky kids to make it, but in the end, you know if you checked back in a year they will have broken up and gone their separate ways.

Given Nick and Norah’s tone and indie music soundtrack, you can tell the filmmakers are aiming for the quirky movie vibe that seems to be all the rage today. Yet it doesn’t seem like the film is strong enough to be a big hit with its teenage target audience. While this “one crazy night” scenario is certainly a parent’s nightmare, nothing much happens compared to other recent films of this ilk. Nick and Norah are looking for direction in their lives, but they don’t really find much on-screen. What we end up with are a couple of pleasant characters who don’t grow much or do much, messing around with their crazy friends. Charming in a way, but largely unmemorable.

**Note:  Cautions contain a few “spoilers.”


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A great deal of underage club-hopping and drinking. Caroline spends most of the film either drunk or hung over.
  • Language/Profanity:  A moderate amount of profane and vulgar expressions, earning its PG-13 rating. The name of Nick’s band is a bit vulgar.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Nick’s band mates are homosexual so there are a great many gay jokes, but like most films today, their sexual orientation is treated as completely normal. The crew at one point in their travels ends up at an odd gay burlesque show. A flashback scene where Nick buys ex-girlfriend Tris lingerie for her birthday and the two have sex. Later Tris dances erotically in her underwear for Nick in an effort to win him back. Nick’s gay friend Dev (Rafi Gavron) makes Nora change her bra in an effort to be more enticing to Nick. Nick and Norah eventually have sex in her father’s music studio. Not much is seen but the viewer can hear all that occurs as they have left all the studio sound equipment on. There is a good bit of frank sexual discussion among the teens.
  • Violence:  Mostly slapstick involving Caroline’s drunken wanderings across New York City, includes a gross-out scene involving vomit, chewing gum and a public rest room. At one point Norah gets frustrated with Nick and slaps him around a bit. One of Nick’s friends “head-butts” an antagonist who is harassing Nick and Norah.