Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist & r & & r & by MARYANN JOHANSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's kinda like Ferris Bueller's Night Out, but the whole gang is Ferris and everybody's way less snarky and way sweeter. Nick and Norah could well be definitive flick of the Millennial generation, the film that captures its zeitgeist, which can be boiled down to one word: "nice."
There's no way, in Ferris' world, that a guy like Nick (Michael Cera) would ever have been allowed to date a girl like Tris (Alexis Dziena). He's a sensitive-creative type, a musician and a poet and a tender heart. She's a bitch on four-inch heels, a user and a manipulator. Teenage boys have always been attracted to her kind, because she's "hot"... but since when do girls like that actually return the favor? It's as if Nick and Tris live in some crazy parallel universe in which everyone just gets along, in the larger cultural sense, I mean: Of course some people are still terribly mean to others, but there simply don't seem to be cliquish distinctions between these kids. They all play in the same sandbox.
The sandbox here is one long night out in New York, a little adventure in the city for a gang from the 'burbs of New Jersey. Nick travels in with his bandmates Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron), who also happen to be a couple, which goes delightfully uncommented on, except via Nick's brokenhearted lamenting that they "don't know what it's like to be straight -- it's awful." He's upset because Tris dumped him, and he's still not past making mixtapes (er, CDs) for her. Tris is in the city with her friend Norah (Kat Dennings). Everyone's in Manhattan chasing down a secret concert that will be put on by a neo-punk band called Where's Fluffy? Clues pop up all over the Lower East Side and East Village -- graffiti on bathroom stalls, enigmatic hints from radio deejays, that kind of thing. Nick and Norah meet at the evening's first stop, a gig by his band at the hip club Arlene's Grocery; she's trying to pull herself out from under the thrall of users and manipulators of her own, and the two simply click (with a little push from Thom and Dev). Off they all go on an overnight odyssey all over the city, not just searching for Fluffy but getting away from Tris, who decides to try to sink her claws back into Nick just as maybe he finds he can fall for someone new.
Today's teens have a shared eclectic taste in music: They have access to all the music ever recorded, and there's nothing especially "hip" about what they like, because if everyone's hip then no one is. And that's how Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist feels: funny and witty and clever and charmingly quirky, as if charming quirk had gone so mainstream that nobody even noticed anymore. It's Romeo and Juliet as if the Montagues and the Capulets had never even thought to start feuding -- for even though Norah's a rich girl who goes to a private school and Nick's a poor kid who drives a junky old Yugo, it's barely even something that might keep them apart.
I'm making it sound like there's no drama and no tension here, and that's not the case. But instead of coming from outside forces, tension comes from within our very appealing hero and heroine: They are their own stumbling blocks to their own happiness -- which is usually the case for all of us, isn't it? (Rated PG-13)