In this era of cookie-cutter quirk and engineered individuality, where Juno and Charlie Bartlett reign as prom queen and king, originality and rebellion are commodities manufactured, packaged, and sold to teens and other susceptible target markets. The term “indie” has had less and less to do with a DIY work ethic or lack of corporate funding, and though a handful of major studios have cut their “art house” divisions in the past year, the sensibility still remains. It’s a label that’s bandied about indiscriminately, often referring to certain aesthetics, or even specific actors.
Enter Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, marketed by Sony Pictures Entertainment as an indie film thanks mainly to its cast (Juno’s Michael Cera and Bartlett’s Kat Dennings) and its soundtrack (Vampire Weekend, Devendra Banhart, etc.). Labels aside, the talent involved is intriguing: director Peter Sollett’s intimate feature debut, Raising Victor Vargas, brought forth disarmingly candid performances from its young cast. Under his deft direction, the heretofore one-note Cera and the mostly anonymous Dennings had the potential to shine. And, with the exception of its telltale Juno-style credits, Nick and Norah starts out well enough. Nick (Cera, gentle and bewildered, as usual) is stuck on his ex-girlfriend and is making her a series of mix CDs commemorating the end of their six-month relationship. When the object of his affections chucks them into the trash, these thoughtfully compiled aural love letters end up in the hands of Norah (Dennings). The premise is rife with opportunities to explore the poignancy of young love, the power of music, or simply the ups and downs of everyday teenage life.
Instead, we get gross-out gags (gum, extracted from a vomit-filled toilet, popped back into a mouth for chewing), unwarranted “Big Girl” sass (Norah, probably a size 6, says of Nick’s ex “I could floss with that girl!”), and genres of people replacing actual fleshed-out characters. Click here to read the rest of Sarah Silver’s review of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.