Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Youthful libidos are undeniable, and in a teenage flick, as the American Pie franchise proved, a first kiss is no longer sufficient. In Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, many subplots revolve around the body, from vomit to sex. Released around midterms and homecoming season, the adolescent stresses of popularity and schoolwork are driving many hormonal teens to their local theaters to escape their student responsibility.
Peter Sollett’s sophomore film, based on a book of the same name, is advertised as a RomCom for the not-yet-legal crowd, a hetero-normative traditional story tied up in a Freudian package of urban chaos and sexual tension that offers drama, fantasy, and liberation to the suburbanite adolescent. It frankly and realistically reminds us how everything returns to sex, but it offers nothing new to the genre.
The film follows Nick, a high school student and musician who is convinced to play a show in New York City to help get over his ex-girlfriend, and Norah, who has been listening to Nick’s trashed playlists and falling for him via his artwork and musical tastes. When the two first meet at Nick’s show, Norah is unaware of his identity as her favorite DJ. But rather quickly, in adolescent ADD-fashion, they are forced to hit it off while Norah’s friend Caroline drunkenly wanders the streets of New York. The rest of the film follows them as they track down Caroline all the while trying to find the secret location of a beloved indie band’s show.
With nothing as outrageous as “one time at band camp” scenarios, Nick and Norah is a frank but sweet depiction of teenage romance with a veneer of rebellion. Young moviegoers can escape into a world where time seems to stand still, adults are absent, and bars don’t check IDs. The city is a utopian image of energy, abundance, and community that the suburbs and country seem to lack with their box-stores and Stepford connotations. Even a young, attractive girl can wander plastered through the streets of New York without any fear of danger.
Instead of relishing in the city’s amusements, there is one blockade after another and Nick and Norah quickly seek solace in quiet spaces secluded from the rush around them. As fantastic and exciting as the city of dreams could be on film, it serves as merely a backdrop. The real utopia, the real escape of the film is the frankness and transparency of sex and true love. Sexuality is a main plot point throughout, from Nick and Norah’s past partners to Nick’s numerous gay friends/band mates and Norah’s inability to orgasm, and the film’s climax which is Norah’s first literal one.
For all his bold attempts with the scary city and direct sex talk, Sollett plays it safe with the same old hetero-normative damsel-knight scenario. Norah is a confident woman, but she instantly weakens in the presence of men and she is ‘incomplete’ without her orgasm. Nick, our modern-day teenage knight in zip-up hoodie, completes Norah and stands up to both his and her exes.
For a film based on musicians and the teens that love them, its title is a bit misleading – there is no infinite playlist per se. Not a literal translation, the title references a night motivated by music and the youth urban culture around it. From the playlists that originally link Nick and Norah and the concert where they meet to the recording studio where they hook up, music is the liberating, romantic escape for the characters from their suburban Jersey lives of teenage angst.
More so than these cheap links that move the film along, it is the indie music compilation of mostly budding New York and L.A. bands on the soundtrack that serves as Sollett’s real infinite playlist. A commercialized audio embodiment of the youthful excitement of New York and its characters, our infinite playlist is underwhelming in theaters and little more than a ploy for album sales. At least it’s a good album.
© 2008 Molly Hubbs. All rights reserved.
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