Making the Grades
Please note that in order to provide parents with an accurate view of the content of this film, some plot spoilers are included in this review.
In popular culture's never-ending quest to rob young people of an opportunity to enjoy their teen years without all the baggage and worry of adulthood, this movie takes the lead. It also clearly demonstrates how teen romances on the big screen have changed over the years. Where we once anticipated a first kiss between our young hero and heroine, now we are privy to a young girl's anxious fear that if she doesn't reach her first orgasm she will leave her date feeling humiliated and sexually insecure.
But that's the end of the movie. In the beginning, we meet Nick (Michael Cera), a callow New Jersey high school senior who plays bass guitar as the only straight in a queercore group. He's been sad for weeks since being dumped by his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena). So his three gay band mates, not wanting to see their buddy continue to cloister himself in his bedroom, talk him into going to NYC to play a gig.
Minutes after their time on stage, Nick finds himself lip-to-lip with Norah (Kat Dennings), a girl desperate to have a boy on her arm for just five minutes (the time she thinks it should take to convince her teasing pals she has a male escort). Unbeknownst to either of them, they share Tris as a common acquaintance -- and her influence has been just as negative on Norah.
The two introverted teens appear to be a bad match until Norah discovers Nick is the author of the many underappreciated mix-discs that were showered upon Tris. Seeing their love of similar music as a good enough reason to extend their five-minute romance, the pair sets out to find the mysterious location where an independent band is rumored to be performing. Roving the city that never sleeps and babysitting Norah's booze-guzzling friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), this cast of adolescent characters' tour through various iconic underground NYC clubs and hipster hangouts. Their journey is intermingled with intoxicated introductions and sexual explorations -- with nary a request for proof of age.
As is often the case in the teen movie genre, there really isn't a whole lot of plot to digest. The middle act of this mercifully short production is a tedious montage of teen soap opera discussions interspersed with scenes of the dangerously drunk Caroline getting separated from the group and throwing up in a restroom at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Also common in these films is the gross out factor -- in this case Caroline has a treasured wad of gum that she inadvertently vomits into the toilet and then reaches in to retrieve. It will later be chewed again and shared by most of the cast.
As the night pushes into the early morning hours, Nick and Nora finally find themselves alone and the young lady is able to reveal her big dark secret. She has been dating a guy for three years and as yet still hasn't reached that height of sexual pleasure. Thankfully (sarcasm noted) with Nick's help her wish is about to be granted, and in approximately the same time it takes to order a fast food burger we hear the blissful moans of this adolescent reaching her goal.
Like many other teen movies, this film ignores the consequences of drinking, driving recklessly, and participating in casual sex. But Nick & Norah goes one step further, adding the complexities of sexual performance and satisfaction to the list of adolescent anxieties. While in their cool world the actions of these teens leads to an infinitely unbelievable happy ending, in reality this playlist would likely sing a different tune.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Obviously, we feel films like this minimize the portrayals of the negative effects related to the irresponsible use of alcohol and engagement in recreational sexual behavior. How do you feel? Do you think the inclusion of consequences for the actions depicted in this film would make it more or less realistic? Do you think teen girls need to be concerned about sexually pleasing teen boys?