Movies: ‘Nick and Norah’ an Exercise in Subtlety

"NICK AND NORAH" filmBy Matthew B. Zeidman

NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS)10/6/08 – If there’s one thing that defines newly released rom-com “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” it isn’t the indie soundtrack, the sight gags or the cosmopolitan streets of New York. In one word, it’s subtlety.

Similar in style to leading man Michael Cera’s previous work, “Juno,” audiences won’t be left roaring in the aisles, nor will they leave theaters overwhelmed with emotion. “Nick and Norah” isn’t that kind of movie. Rather, most of its charm is in its simplicity, much like the minimalist Yugo automobile Cera’s character, Nick, drives around Manhattan.

Cera and co-star Kat Dennings, who plays Norah, are the poster children for less-is-more, spending the duration of the feature exchanging glances rife with quiet subtext, yet never failing to deliver moments of outward intensity when required. Dennings is truly the star of the show in this respect, using her impressive ability to convey powerful emotions in an understated way as a critical complement to Cera’s enervated approach. Even Alexis Dziena doesn’t overdo it as Tris, Nick’s covetous and manipulative ex-girlfriend, and merits watching in the future.

There’s a love story, here, as the trailer promises, but it’s not the typical boy-meets-girl formula. Nick and Norah are on a quest for romance (and their favorite band), that’s true, but more compelling is their search for self-worth, redemption and self-insight, which sees them acting as catalysts for one another’s journey.

“Nick and Norah” isn’t all biscuits and gravy, of course. The laidback tone of the film doesn’t always mesh well with its other elements. For instance, the recurring gross-out humor seems to have been tacked on simply to compensate for the lack of belly laughs (which wouldn’t have belonged in the movie, anyway), and one or two one-liners come off as cliché. These aren’t deal-breaking complaints, however, and director Peter Sollett does a laudable job of lacing together his actors, his location and his shots for one uniform experience.

Because of “Nick and Norah’s” intensely subtle nature, it isn’t likely to be a work reminisced about or even remembered a few years from now, but perhaps that’s the point. One isn’t meant to quote lines ad nauseam a la “My Cousin Vinny” or forever remember a sperm-laden cowlick a la “There’s Something About Mary.” Rather, one is meant to vicariously experience Nick and Norah’s joint catharsis and absorb it on an almost subconscious level. In that respect, “Nick and Norah” is a resounding success.

Source: Hollywood Today