Sunday, February 15, 2009

Movie review: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

by Lauren Rother

There's a lot to be said about marketing, and how entire companies come into being solely to market themselves to a single demographic. In film, that company is Focus Features, the "art house films" division of Universal Pictures. Focus is responsible for such films as Being John Malkovich, Lost In Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and specifically targets "indie culture" using soundtrack artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Beck and The Polyphonic Spree. Given the popularity of many of Focus's films and the amount of money they've made, other studios are jumping on board. Cue Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Columbia Pictures. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is about New York City, filmed in New York City, and uses New York area (indie) bands for the soundtrack. And it's awesome.

I got the same feeling watching Nick and Norah that I got watching Little Miss Sunshine, namely, this is awesome and this is being sold to me. If you can get beyond the obviousness of Nick and Norah and embrace the commercialization of subculture, the movie manages to encompass some tennents of indie rock subculture on the East Coast without falling into all of the romantic comedy pitfalls or negating the existence or knowledge of women within the subculture.

Nick and Norah cover the antics of two teenagers (whom, I must say, are entirely unbelievable as teenagers) and their friends running around New York City all night trying to acheive two goals: keeping track of a drunk friend and finding the venue of an elusive band. As you may have guessed, Nick and Norah are in the process of attraction as the movie progresses. And while you might expect that Norah gets less character development outside that of "Nick's love interest" as the movie goes on, Norah actually maintains independence and intelligence throughout the movie. Granted, when you look at her character from a distance, there is something oddly Jane Austen-esque about her. She's overly modest in dress and manner, and highly nuturing. However, it is easier to believe that those qualities are simply part of her character given that she maintains wit and opinions. And, her relationship with her friend isn't a jealous rivalry like so many female relationships are portrayed, but a mutually respectful and admiring one.

All in all, Nick and Norah manages to be funny without being funny at the expense of everyone else, and is only totally obnoxious during one part (achieved orgasm in 5 seconds?! I think not). Granted, teenagers running around clubs and bars all night is somewhat unbelievable, but Nick and Norah makes you want to suspend that belief.

On the 10 to -10 scale, I give Nick and Norah a 7, and it does pass the Bechdel Wallace test.


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