90 minutes in heaven: "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

By Amy Shaunette

Recently, I asked a friend if he thought there would come a time when we’d stop being interested in movies about teenagers. “No, never,” he said; then changed his mind. “Well, maybe when we’re 40?” We contemplated the genre’s expiration, deciding 40 seemed like the right time to finally get over high school. But if “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is an indicator of the future of teen movies, we’ll be missing some spectacular films once we’re over the hill.The latest from “Raising Victor Vargas” director Peter Sollett, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a playful, coming-of-age romantic comedy about two loveable music nerds, plagued by the ups and downs of adolescent relationships. It’s enough to make you vomit, right? Wrong. Somehow, “Nick and Norah” pulls it off. The love story is sweet without being sticky, the character development is spot-on and the cast is unrivaled.

Michael Cera plays Nick, a creative, misunderstood high school senior with a spot in a queercore rock band and serious girlfriend troubles. Freshly dumped by his malicious, superficial girlfriend, Tris (Lifetime movie veteran Alexis Dziena), Nick nurses his broken heart by sending Tris forlorn mix CDs and lengthy voicemails. His theatrically flamboyant gay bandmates convince him to spend a night in New York City, playing a gig and chasing down their mysterious favorite band. Meanwhile, Tris throws the mix CDs into the garbage, and they find their way into the hands of her sweet-natured frenemy, Norah, played by Kat Dennings. Norah becomes infatuated for the man behind the mix CDs, and a bizarre twist of fate leads everyone to the same rock club on the same evening. What follows is a wild night of matchmaking, chasing after Norah’s drunk friend, impromptu rock concerts, multiple breakups and hookups and ultimately, an impossibly cute but complicated romance between Nick and Norah.

Cera has perfected his character role of the adorably awkward, quiet nerd just waiting for the right girl to love him back. I want to resist the Cera trend. I want to deny his heartthrob status and refuse to follow the masses of girls who’ve fallen in love with him. Unfortunately, Cera-as-Nick swept me off my feet. By the end of the movie, my question wasn’t the typical, post-romantic comedy “why don’t I have a boyfriend,” but rather, “why hasn’t Michael Cera called me yet?”

Although Nick resembles Cera’s past characters, such as Evan in “Superbad” and Paulie Bleeker in “Juno,” something about Cera’s performance in “Nick and Norah” stands out. His humor is more subtle; his admirable qualities minimized as he thinks with his penis and chases his god-awful ex-girlfriend. But Nick is so believable, it’s hard to see where he ends and Cera begins.

What sets “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” apart from other teen comedies is its inherent smartness. The characters are intelligent, genuine people, with valid thoughts and emotions vulnerable enough to take seriously. This isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have its faults-the emphasis on the role music plays in Nick and Norah’s lives is overtly tacky and sentimental, with cheesy lines like “You are literally my musical soulmate.” But Nick and Norah are both cool people most would want as friends.

The movie boasts an irresistable combination of the poignancy of 1980s John Hughes films juxtaposed by witty one-liners reminiscent of “Juno.” Major comic highlights include Norah’s drunk friend’s snappy accusation, “You’re practically blowing him with your eyes!” and, probably the cleverest advice a gay seventeen-year-old could give his straight friend, “People don’t want a 24-hour hump sesh, they don’t want to be married to you for a hundred years, they just want to hold your hand.” The film is a goldmine of accessible teenage wisdom; the aphorisms of a generation.

If nostalgia for teenage hell and a secret penchant for Michael Cera isn’t enough motivation to schlep over to a movie theater, there’s the soundtrack, which is impeccable. A movie about hip, music-savvy kids could deliver no less than a tracklisting including songs from The National, Vampire Weekend, Rogue Wave, The Shout-Out Louds, and various other of-the-moment indie bands. The music becomes its own character in the film, illuminating the storyline and filling in any blanks left by the script. “Nick and Norah” is one of those movies that dare the audience to leave before the music credits roll.

I admit, I have a shameful soft spot for a good romantic comedy, and I’m still fascinated by cinematic representations of adolescence, but allow me to venture the belief that “Nick and Norah” has universal appeal. It’s no Oscar hopeful, but it’s irresistibly fun and beautifully shot. Besides, who could resist a film with a line like, “You wouldn’t have to get over me if you were still under me,” Tris’s skanky invitation for make-up sex. One thing’s for sure-“Nick and Norah” is under my skin, and there’s no getting over it.