As its title suggests, there is very little more to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist than one long, extended boast about how cool a load of underground bands are. Perhaps its lack of conventional narrative and motifs of perpetual searching and deferred potential are reminiscent of Joyce’s Ulysses; but strictly speaking this, would only be true if Ulysses sucked.
Michael Cera — whose portrayals of highschoolers are ever more unconvincing — plays Nick to Kat Denning’s Norah, two totally original indie-hipsters who just don’t fit in with their crowds; Queercore punk bands and harems of drunken bitches, respectively. Across a single night of po-faced indifference, the unhappy couple emote in a faux-charming manner so nauseatingly contrived that it does not merely beg the question ‘Who the hell cares?’, but indeed, the larger issue, ‘Who the hell thought anyone would care, and would then go ahead and gamble large sums of money on such a surely misguided premise?’
Our Montague and Capulet both spend the night trying to extricate their lives from those of their troublesome exes, rescue Norah’s inebriated friend Caroline from the ignominy of having to face the consequences of her actions, and uncover the location of a gig by their favourite band, the super-cool Where’s Fluffy?
As if to underscore how awesome his two leads are — and, by the transitive properties of awesome-eness, how privileged we should consider ourselves to be witnessing their lives — director Peter Sollett constantly draws attention to the fact that Dumb and Dumber are the only ones who really understand Where’s Fluffy, whereas everyone else are just a bunch of shallow, phoney scenesters. Except Caroline, who maybe would be all right, if she weren’t throwing up all the time. Phoney.
Catharsis finally comes when Nick awesomely abandons his detritus — sorry, ex — Tris, as she pathetically dances for him on the riverbank in the most sluttish fashion imaginable, by driving away announced to leave her stranded. I know; could he more gallant and alternative, right? Meanwhile, Norah hilariously has a couple of zeroes added to her boyfriend’s bar tab in retaliation to his — equally pathetic — pleas for her uber-producer dad to check out his band’s demo. Jeez, Norah, nepotism exists, and is the only way anyone ever gets ahead; stop being such a playa hater.
The tedium not quite over, Sense and Sensibility finally head over to the Where’s Fluffy gig, where — surprise! — Tris and Tal (see? The exes have the same alliterative initials as well!) await. Not quite content with beating his audience around the head with the obvious stick, Sollett has both his lead actors face the same, terrible conundrum, in obvious homage to Sophie’s Choice — stick around at the gig with all these douchebags, or be totally original and split?
The laziness with which their relationship is structured would be more irritating if it were not for the fact that it is literally the only semblance of story holding the whole rambling, boring tale together.
In Juno, the film whose aesthetic Infinite Playlist most transparently attempts to replicate, the self-consciously weird characters and obscure music references are silly but excusable, thanks to an ultra-smart script and some great casting. In stark comparison, I remain unconvinced that there ever was a script for such a turgid farce of independent cinema, and now marks the point that I have fallen out of guy-love for Cera; a feat I thought would be impossible after Arrested Development.