Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Runtime: 1 hr 30 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Sollett
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis Dziena, Ari Graynor, Aaron Yoo, Jay Baruchel
Nick and Norah's Torturous Playlist.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
The saying goes that the book is always better than the movie. Recent film adaptations, like The Soloist and Inkheart, don't exactly dispel that myth, but there ARE exceptions. Ang Lee's masterful The Ice Storm, for instance, is not only superior to the Rick Moody novel on which it's based, it's one of my favorite movies of all time.
Unfortunately, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is not an exception to the rule. This is an awesomely bad movie, made even worse by the fact that it's based on one of the most beloved YA novels of the decade. It's a textbook example of how not to do an adaptation.
The novel, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, unfolds in an engaging, pass-the-baton style. Levithan wrote the first chapter from Nick's point-of-view, Cohn wrote the second from Norah's, and it goes on like that for 20 near-perfect chapters. It's a character piece, with actually very little plot. It opens at a concert in NYC, where Nick's queercore band (he's the only nonqueer member) is performing. He meets Norah and they go to a second club, where their favorite band, Where's Fluffy?, is playing. They get separated and eventually reunite for a blissful finale. The ending feels earned because the characters have just spent the last 180 pages getting to know each other.
The movie isn't like that. It's filled with meaningless, un-illuminating activities. Norah's friend, Caroline, gets lost in the city and Nick's friends go looking for her. (In the book, they take her home. The end.) Where's Fluffy? is playing at a secret location, and N&N spend a lot of time looking for clues. This all comes at the expense of character development. We literally have no idea who these two people are, so when the movie tries to recreate one of the book's best scenes, in which Norah reveals what she likes most about Judaism, it's downright laughable. The quirky, observational humor that made Cohn's and Levithan's dialogue sparkle is completely absent, leaving Michael Cera (as Nick) and Kat Dennings (as Norah) looking a little like lost puppies.
The absolute worst change from the novel is the way the film depicts Norah's friend and Nick's ex-girlfriend, Tris. She was a complicated character in the book. True, she cheated on Nick, she was self-centered and a total tag-along. But she also helped Norah seduce Nick, and she once helped her friend "take care" of an unwanted pregnancy. (Her unforgettable last line in that scene: "Be careful next time, bitch!") In the movie, she's a monster. I think this proves the filmmakers have little-to-no interest in portraying teenagers as complex human beings. When they try to capture other stuff about youth culture - the way teens dress, the kind of music they listen to - it ends up feeling hollow and opportunistic.
One thing the movie does get right is Nick's relationship with his friends. It's not a big deal to him that they're gay, and it's in these scenes that the movie comes close to making a generational statement.