Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Review
One night in Manhattan. Nick (Michael Cera) is the bassist for “queercore” band The Jerk-Offs, and feels out of place by being a straight guy in a gay band. He's just broken up with Tris.(Alexis Dziena). Norah (Kat Dennings) meanwhile likes the look of Nick when she sees him on stage with the band. When Tris taunts Norah for being there with no date, Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her date, not realising his past history with Tris. And meanwhile, the hunt for a secret gig by the hottest band in town, Where's Fluffy, is on...
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan were friends, and both published authors of novels for teenagers. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist began, with not much planning, as an exercise in writing a novel in two voices. The idea was Cohn's, and she enlisted Levithan's help to write the guy chapters. She also named the lead characters Nick and Norah – an intended homage to the Thin Man films, which were favourites of hers.
Told in alternating chapters from Nick's (written by Levithan) and Norah's (Cohn) viewpoints, both as first person present tense interior monologues, Nick & Norah is a short novel, telling a slight story. Replete with musical references old and new, it's more than a bit so-hip-it-hurts. Adapted for the screen by one writer (Lorene Scafaria), Nick & Norah the film is somewhat different. Double first person becomes the conventional cinematic third, with not even a voiceover to put us inside either character's head. The novel's heavy use of profanity is toned right down due to aiming for a PG-13 rating (12 in the UK). Amongst other things, the Jerk-Offs and their song “Screw That Man” were called different things in the novel – I'll leave you to guess what. The novel, to give it some credit, had that spiky energy that you associate with a night in New York (even if you have never been there). The film is blander, though not unpleasant, with personable lead actors. You know in advance what the end is, and some idea of how you get there, and you get an indie-rock soundtrack along the way. And also a lesson that it's probably not a good idea to share your gum with anyone if you don't know where it's been. Cameo spotters should note Devendra Banhart in a deli and Cohn and Levithan in Veselka's restaurant.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is released by Sony on a single dual-layered DVD encoded for Regions 2 and 5. The disc begins with a plug for Blu-ray but that can be skipped.
The DVD transfer is in the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Despite being set mostly at night, this is a bright and colourful film, and gets a transfer to match. Given that this is a new film, very likely produced with a digital intermediate and transferred to DVD from a high-definition source, this is as good as you should expect.
The 5.1 soundtrack is mostly front and centre, with some use of the surrounds for the music score. Not the most elaborate sound mix, but it does its job. An audio descriptive option is a welcome addition, and there are Spanish and Catalan dubs as well. Subtitles are available in several languages for the feature (see sidebar). The commentary has subtitles available in English and Spanish, while the extras have those two languages plus Portuguese available.
The extras begin with two audio commentaries. Both feature director Peter Sollett, first with actors Michael Cera, Kat Dennings and Ari Graynor, then with the writers, Lorene Scarafia, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The first is jokey but doesn't say a great deal. The second goes into some detail about the novel and the changes made for the screenplay. As with many DVDs with more than one commentary, you suspect it might have been better to have a more disciplined track with all seven participants together.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (10:27) follow, presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1. Each scene can be accessed separately, so if you particularly want to watch or avoid a cleaning lady doing several takes of her one line (“Hell, no!”) or of Tris vomiting, then you can. Also provided are 4:13 of outtakes.
Many of the remaining extras are fairly lightweight, including Kat Dennings's puppet version of the film (5:13), a video diary by Ari Graynor (3:57) and a “faux interview” with Cera and Dennings by Eddie Kaye Thomas (2:51), a stills gallery of shots taken by Peter Sollett and a music video, “Middle Management” by Bishop Allen (2:52), who appear in the film.
More substantial, and particularly of interest to film students (as Sollett points out) are two storyboard animations, with an optional commentary by Sollett and editor Myron Kerstein. These cover the opening sequence and the scene where Nick and Norah meet, with a “play all” option.
The extras are completed by a set of trailers, for The House Bunny, Rachel Getting Married, Seven Pounds and The International.
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