Schadenfraude: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 4, 2008
This is not a good career move, my friend, I promise you
Please tell me you cringed when you saw the title, and then who was starring in it. I don’t care who you are–how twee you are on your tweest days, how much you like names that start with the letter N (or references to The Thin Man), or how hopelessly underrated you believe Bishop Allen to be–please tell me the title of this movie made you die a little inside when you realized it was gonna be the next big step in Michael Cera’s career. Cera, as I’m certainly not the first to point out, is the closest thing this generation has to a John Cusack–the puppy-dog adorable loser who just cares about things a little too much, and who is too loveable for any mean-spirited soul to begrudge his inevitably getting the girl at the end.
But even John Cusack had to move on at some point, and it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for Cera to move into the Grifters and True Colors phase of his career if he keeps making movies like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Seems like in every role Cera takes, he’s a little meeker, a little more emotionally vulnerable and a little more easily bossed around than the last one, and in the previews for Nick and Norah, all he seems to do is get yelled at and taken advantage of by people with stronger willpower than he does. I mean, I’ll admit the movie’s general premise (two rebounding young’ns bond over identical tastes in music over the course of a crazy night in the New York wilderness) does sound like it could be pretty touching–I’m not completely dead inside just yet–but you just know it’s going to be diminishing returns from here on out until Cera mixes it up a little.
I was encouraged by the Village Voice’s exceedingly negative review of the movie, which basically confirmed all of my worst fears about the movie (“The only thing it’s an alternative to? Good.”) But alas, it seems that most critics have, fairly unsurprisingly, allowed themselves to become susceptible to the movie’s charms. David Ansen of Newsweek hopes that all teen movies would “be as sweet and seductive as [director Peter] Sollett’s smartly observed romance.” USA Today’s Claudia Puig finds the Vampire Weekend and Band of Horses-laden soundtrack “an excellent counterpoint to the film’s quirky scenarios.” And worst of all, there’s Travis Nichols of the Seattle Post-Inquirer, who tests the very limits of my gag reflex with his review, including the all-too-appropos quote “Who needs to go back to the polysyllabic spree of John Cusack channeling Nick Hornby when you have Michael Cera making awkward emo look so lovable?”
Well, at least Cera’s drawing a little less acclaim for Nick and Norah than he did for Juno, which was a little less than he got for Superbad, which was a little less than he got for his work in Arrested Development. And Cera himself has pooh-pooh’ed his potential involvement in a future AD full-length movie, saying that his fans probably wouldn’t want to see it (he’s wrong, but he should be right) and demonstrating that he at least has the capability to realize that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But hopefully the run of Nick and Norah will pass inconspicuously, without words like “sleeper,” “cult” or “MySpace Generation” getting attached to it, so that Cera will get no mixed messages about whether or not he should take that role he gets offered in Joey’s Magical Evening in Chinatown or Spencer and the Strip-Club Sweetheart next time out.