Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I actually saw Nick and Norah at a free preview a few weeks ago.  Normally my reviews are prompt, but in this case I decided to reserve judgment.  People are always saying the same thing when you adapt a book to movie format.   “The book was better.”  Sometimes that’s true.  Sometimes its just that you read the book first and you expected it to be shot for shot the same thing.  Which doesn’t happen (unless you’re Frank Miller apparently).  So I decided to find out for myself.

I finished the book.  I saw the movie.   And the long and short of it is, the movie was better, but not by much.

That’s surprising to me, because I expected the book to be better.  You see, I like N&N, but it’s a movie that never gave me the impression that it strived to be anything more than an average teen comedy.  Just entertaining enough to be likable, but not funny enough to be extraordinary.   The book on the other hand strives (and briefly succeeds) at being brilliant and charming and whimsical.  The problem is that like most teenagers, it comes off as fake.  The book is often too clever for it’s own good and in the end, it’s kind of annoying and very distracting.

THE BOOK

The book was conceived and written by a male and female writing team who do a he said/ she said riff.   At first it seems to work, because they flow well together.  Nick and Norah thereby have distinctly different voices without being obnoxiously awkward.  Unfortunately by the third chapter, the difference between the two writers is obvious.   Nick’s chapter are the product of a more mature writers.  The witty hyperboles and smilies and constant pop culture references don’t come off as too forced.  It isn’t perfect mind you, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Norah’s chapters, however… suck.  Not majorly. But they are products of a writer who was published a bit too soon.  For instance, Norah has a tendency to go off on these (Extremely Annoying and sadly pathetic and poseur) rants about music and fighting the man and what Punk Rock is all about (something that she clearly is ignorant of).   The problem is that she goes into these rants at the most improbable and inopportune times.  No one goes off on a three minute tear about how they got pissed at their Dad for not signing some stupid indy-pop band full of drugged up losers with names clearly inspired by Stan Lee circa 1967 during the span of a 30-second kiss that supposedly blows her mind.  It’s stupid.  It’s okay to use that method of speech when you’re writing through a narrator about something that happened past tense.  But it’s ridiculous to do it in the present tense.

So yeah, half of it is poorly written.  That being said, it isn’t a bad book.  I liked it.  It’s charming in it’s way, and some of the characters work much better in the book than the movie.  It’s definitely worth reading; it just isn’t anything special.

THE MOVIE

First off, Michael Cera plays Nick, so right away it’s going to be different based on that alone.  Cera is a very fun, quirky actor (who curiously reminds me of Beak from the X-Men).  But he is very quickly becoming pigeon-holed as a one-note actor.  He’d better start distancing himself from these roles quickly or he’s going to end up more hated than Shia LeBoeuhuhuhffuh (sp?)  Kat Dennings, on the other hand, was perfect.  She’s clearly a star in the making.   What’s interesting is that when I read the book, I was picturing her as Norah the whole time.  Whereas with Nick, I just couldn’t reconcile Cera’s speech and mannerisms with the character.   I enjoyed Cera, don’t get me wrong; I just think he needs to try something new.  (Not everyone can get away with playing themselves for fifty years, can they Jack Nicholson?)

What’s interesting here is that the movie borrows very liberally from the book, almost to the point where you’re wondering if the screenwriter couldn’t make up his mind as to whether or not to ignore the book completely.  It isn’t a criminal act, just a weird one.  He randomly inserts plot points, scenes and characters into different points in the movie.  It didn’t matter much in watching since it was all new to me at the time, but I would imagine a book fan might find the randomness of it all very distracting. 

One of the few sinful acts of the movie is the handling of the “villain”, Tris.   While she is still kind of a bitch in the book, she is nowhere near the cartoonish stereotype that she appears to be in the movie.   In fact, once you get to the meat of the story, Tris is by far one of the most complex and interesting characters introduced.  It’s sad that they had to diffuse her personality to serve the 2-dimensional needs of a stereotypical audience.

OVERALL

I can’t really say which the average viewer would like better.  On the one hand, the movie is cheaper and shorter. On the other hand, people should read more.

 

PLAYLIST FOR READING NICK & NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST

  1. The Ramones- I Wanna Be Sedated
  2. Whatcha Want & Intergalactic- The Beastie Boys
  3. Kiss Me- Sixpence None the Richer
  4. Hey There Delilah- Plain White T’s
  5. Chemical Party- Gavin DeGraw
  6. How Blue Can You Get? -BB King
  7. Drops of Jupiter- Train
  8. That Thing You Do- A New Found Glory
  9. Hello- Lionel Richie
  10. Wild Horses- Mazzy Star
  11. Doing It -LL Cool J
  12. I Want to Hold Your Hand- The Beatles
  13. Midnight Train to Georgia -Gladys Knight
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