Directed by Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas”), “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” revolves around a night in the life of wealthy bridge-and-tunnel kids as they scour New York’s rock clubs in their vintage automobiles in search of the elusive band “Where’s Fluffy.” On this quest are two “musical soulmates,” Nick (Michael Cera), the only straight member of a queercore band who makes painstaking mix tapes for his ex, and music industry royalty Norah (Kat Dennings), who fishes Nick’s mixes out of the trash when his ex carelessly throws them away.
Playing matchmakers are Nick’s sexually well-adjusted gay band mates, who have nothing better to do in the film than act as glam fairy godmothers to the pathetic hipster heteros.
“You don’t know how hard it is to be straight,” Nick laments as he stalks moodily from his house—an ironic statement that will actually prove to be the case in this film. It is the queers who are on top of their romantic game (a smooth move that allows the director to avoid presenting their issues), doling out advice that is apparently encapsulated in the early Beatles’ track “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
As Thom (Aaron Yoo) old-schools Nick, it is not the bump ’n grind or the forever ever that counts in teenage romantic relationships, but earnest companionship (however temporary), which is exactly what is in store for Nick and Norah during the course of the night.
It doesn’t seem to matter that the awkward, turtle-faced Cera and the Kate Winslet-esque Dennings have no real on-screen chemistry—all that matters is that their ipods are in synch. This becomes clear in a scene in which Tris (Alex Dziena), Nick’s ex, tries to win back his affections by doing a sexy dance in front of the headlights of his Yugo, inspired by her song, Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing.” This brassy brand of sexuality proves distasteful to Nick, who resides in the sexually repressed world of white hipsters. Nick abandons her on the side of the road (WTF?!) and uses his windshield wipers to wipe off the sassy lipstick kiss she left on the car window. Meanwhile, through a flashback, he is seen reflecting on the more innocent pleasures he and Norah had earlier that night.
Unlike his character in “Superbad,” Cera’s character here (though still over-prepared and thoughtful) does not carry with him a tiny bottle of lube for his ladyfriend, but a pack of handy wipes, as the union of hands in this film is much more important than the union of genitals. The indie music championed by Nick and Norah is sorely lacking in the kind of hot and bothered sexuality and its accompanying element of danger (fabricated or otherwise) that characterized the rock of their parents’ generation. This reality is reflected in the New York these two inhabit for the night, a tame hipster wonderland in which you just might run into Devendra Banhart at an all-night Asian grocery.
Annoyingly, this music scene is also unapologetically male-dominated; note, in particular, that the film’s soundtrack features almost exclusively all-male recording artists, and no artists of color. In a scene in which Norah gives Nick a tour of Electric Lady Studios, which is owned by her father, she does not approach the equipment with the same degree of entitlement as Nick does and appears timid about going behind the glass to record. Unlike musician Nick, it seems as if all that Norah will ever record is her own orgasm (yes, this actually happens)—an orgasm not produced through sexual intercourse, as straight indie kids don’t actually have sex. Although this nod to female pleasure should be applauded, within the context of the film it fits in more with Sollett’s desire to avoid alluding to actual sex acts between teenagers.
Although a decent enough date movie, this film might be offensive to those hipsters who actually managed to get laid in high school and enjoy it, as well as to young women who participated in their high school’s music scenes in something other than a supporting role.
Plot Spoiler: Nick and Norah do manage to find “Where’s Fluffy,” but in the end they run away from it. Nick declares, “This is it,” and the camera cuts to their interlocking hands.
Message: Fluffy is inside them and inside all hopelessly romantic hipster teenagers. This is it—this is fluff, but it’s pleasant enough for now.