When I was in high school, back in the late 1800s, I was very into music. I loved all the bands, Bobby Goodsweater, Dino Montgomery and the High Top Cruisers, Lady Buckingham. If one of these musical acts came to town, my friends and I would get into the carriage, and three weeks later, as long as we didn’t break an axle or succumb to a cholera epidemic, we would be right there, sitting in cane chairs, and firing our pistols at the stage. It was a wonderful time in my life, and I think many people can relate to this experience. As any age-appropriate reader of Videogum’s Teen Korner knows, your body at this point in your life is going through a lot of changes, and somehow all of that confusion and excitement is perfectly distilled and enhanced by the music that you are into. Of course, as you get older and the world becomes a dull, gray wasteland through which you push your throbbing anticipation of death through the ash in your proverbial shopping cart (which is your decaying body), this visceral, all-encompassing passion often fades, and music becomes like anything else: a thing that you enjoy when you’re not talking to your therapist about paying taxes. (RIGHT, YOU GUYS? ADULTS!)
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist attempts to capture the whirlwind (and to be honest, mostly whitewind) experience of being a young person for whom indie rock (or whatever music, I suppose) provides an intimate backdrop for your fumbling attempts to one day have sex. And the movie’s perceived awfulness is in direct correlation to how much you relate to the emotions/experiences it is trying to convey.
Nick (Michael Cera) is depressed because his girlfriend Triss (CGI Chipmunk girl from Entourage) broke up with him. He loves her so much, even though we quickly learn that she is a total cunt and has always been a cunt, and so why does this smart and sensitive and interesting young man (I’m using all of htose terms for the purpose of explanation because I am not convinced he is any of them, but you get the point) so obsessed with this living computer-animated nightmare? But so, his two gay friends (right) try to convince him to pull himself together enough for the gig they have that night in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Triss is always making fun of Nick to her friends and throwing the mix CDs he makes her (also, do high school kids actually make each other mix CDs still? HONEST QUESTION FROM A SENIOR CITIZEN!) into the garbage. There is another girl, Norah, who is always pulling the mix CDs out of the trash, and is falling in love for this Nick guy, whoever he is. (Seriously? I mean, I know it is called Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but pro-tip for moviemakers: don’t make the rest of your movie completely irrelevant and unnecessary within the first five minutes.) The girls are ALSO heading into New York City because everyone’s favorite band, Where’s Fluffy (where’s OOF) are playing a secret show (as if there is any other kind of Where’s Fluffy show!).
OK, so now everyone is in Manhattan, and Michael Cera is playing bass in his band, and he sees Triss, and Norah sees him and blah blah blah, he and Nora kiss, and now Triss is jealous, but most importantly is that everyone is just dying to find out where this Where’s Fluffy (where’s a good band name?) secret show is going to be. Nick’s two gay friends offer to take Norah’s drunk friend home in order to force Nick and Norah to be together and hopefully make out, or something, but then they lose the drunk friend and the rest of the movie is a “madcap” (madcap FAIL) romp (romp FAIL) through the city as they try and find their drunk friend while also finding this elusive (read: stupid) secret show. Eventually, Nick and Norah realize that they like each other instead of their two-dimensional significant others (Triss and Jay Baruchel) and they realize that they don’t even care about Where’s Fluffy (me neither!) and bing bong now they are in love. Also Norah’s dad is really rich, and something something fingerbanging.
The thing about this movie is that I was mad at it from a 17-year-old’s perspective. Like, COME ON. I mean, I wouldn’t care if this movie didn’t appeal to me as a 52-year-old twice-divorced father of three. It’s not supposed to! I’ve got bills to pay and my doctor says we need to start a more aggressive treatment for my condition. But as someone who was, believe it or not, an adolescent himself once, this movie made adolescent me mad. Because even now adolescent me was totally prepared to enjoy this, and instead, adolescent me felt totally pandered to, not to mention lied to, and not to mention treated like a moron.
For one thing, just because adolescent me might enjoy a certain genre of music that might make up the bulk of this movie’s soundtrack AND conversational subjects doesn’t mean that I’m going to just like it just because. You still have to make it good. The Shins won’t change your life, if you catch my meaning. I’m not impressed that Michael Cera has a MERGE sticker on the side of his portable record player, because even adolescent me knows that actually Michael Cera’s Prop Manager has a MERGE sticker on the side of his portable record player. And nothing shows the movie’s disregard for its fans’ actual emotional connection to music like the fictional band Where’s Fluffy. For one thing, that is the worst name. It is worse than Va-Poo-Rize. Second of all, if you’re going to put Where’s Fluffy on the wall in the first act, Where’s Fluffy better go off in the third act. We’ve been along for this adventure too, for whatever reason, so just because Nick and Norah want to leave the show early to get back to fingerbangin’, some of us would still like to see what all the fuss is about.
Third of all, just because a band plays a secret show it’s not actually a weird wild goose chase that doesn’t end until well after 4AM on some rooftop in MIDTOWN. And the location for the secret show isn’t exclusively transmitted via RADIO DJ. Oh, the whole Where’s Fluffy thing makes me SO MAD.
And this movie is a liar. There are so many decisions that the characters make that are such total nonsense, even for a bunch of privileged high school students from New Jersey. Like, at one point, when they are trying to find the drunk friend, Norah hears music in the background, which is actually coming from a cleaning woman’s transistor radio, but everyone goes “Wait, there was music in the background? Then she is definitely at this one club in Brooklyn for sure.” What? I mean, these guys are SENIORS in high school. They are about to go to COLLEGE. I know that it takes a village, but I think by the time you are 17 or 18 years old you know enough to recognize that there is literally music EVERYWHERE.
In another part of the movie, random strangers keep confusing Michael Cera’s tiny yello Yugo for a taxi cab.
In another part of the movie, when Norah decides that she hates her boyfriend, who is hoping that she will get a waitress at a club to waive their bill (because her dad owns a recording studio? Huh?) she goes up to the waitress and says “I think you meant two zeros instead of one.” Uh, no, she didn’t. I mean, there is just a fundamental way that bills for items purchased work. But the waitress is like “oh, yes, OK, two zeros.” Good revenge, Norah. What is this, the fucking Matrix? THERE ARE SPOONS WHERE WE LIVE. AND RESTAURANT CHECKS.
My favorite part of the movie is probably when Michael Cera finally learns that Kat Dennings’s dad is rich and famous and owns this famous music studio, and they are walking through the hallway, and he sees some pictures on the wall of a few of the artists that her dad has worked with:
And then he says “wow.” Because you know how impressed indie rock kids are with people who have met Celine Dion, the Counting Crows, and Billy Joel. Very cool!
Of course, the most famous moment in the movie occurs right after, when Michael Cera fingerbangs Kat Dennings on the studio couch. Whatever, that was the least of this movie’s problems. If anything, that seemed like a pretty realistic moment of teenage sexual experimentation (gross, sorry, jail? I hate this. Why are we talking about this movie again?). I mean, why is that such a talking point and no one had ever mentioned to me the part where A GIRL PULLS GUM OUT OF A PENN STATION TOILET FILLED WITH VOMIT AND PUTS IT BACK IN HER MOUTH?
This movie could have been 30 seconds shorter without that moment and no one would have complained. Of course, this movie could have been an hour and a half shorter and not existed and again no one would have complained. Now get out of my room.
Next Week: Thus ends the latest round of nominees. And now, the Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time is going on Spring Hiatus. What with the Videogum Movie Club season kicking into high gear, and also my eyes suffering from poison-exhaustion, I’m going to take a short break from watching really awful things all the time. I hope you, as fellow HUMAN BEINGS, will understand. But, in the meantime, we have some other fun things planned for the next couple months (TBA!), and the Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time will be back before you know it.