It all starts when Nick (Michael Cera) asks Norah (Kat Dennings) to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who's just walked in to his band's show with a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City - and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion and excitement of a first date.

The best John Hughes film that John Hughes never made.

Sure, we had a good giggle at Paul Weitz’s American Pie (1999) and its bawdy sequels, but the truth is, these teen fantasies did more harm than good (though not to Universal Studios’ bottom line"¦).

Thanks to the Pie films and their countless imitators, on-screen teenagers were once again reduced to hormone-ravaged sexual miscreants, intrigued by the notion of falling in love only because it meant getting some. Devotees might cry foul, insisting that a warm heart beats at the centre of the raunchy goings-on, but, dudes, come on – it’s 'Stifler’s Mom" and/or a defiled pastry that we most remember, not the sappy couple worried that college will separate them.

So when a film like Peter Sollett’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist comes along, it renews hopes that smart, romantic, creative teenage characters will make a comeback.
That didn’t happen. Based on he-said-she-said cult novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levthan, Nick and Norah... was undervalued by the studio that backed it and the audience who should have seen it. It sputtered to US$30million in the US and has gone straight to vid-store purgatory in all other territories, and its mistreatment typifies the wafer-thin film marketing skill currently impacting the distribution industry.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist should have been a slam-dunk: Michael Cera came to it fresh off the indie-cool hit Juno, and is his quirky, charming best as Nick; next-big-thing Kat Denning is utterly radiant as Norah; a support cast fills out key roles and functions with aplomb (teen-drunk Ari Gaynor is an absolute hoot); and the indie music sub-plot and accompanying soundtrack is terrific.

That these key-selling points were lost on the big-business robots that run marketing divisions within studios today should not be a surprise but it is certainly a disappointment. Unfortunately it’s an ongoing problem : google 'Bandslam marketing’ to get an inkling of who the blogosphere holds accountable for the failure of the recent Vanessa Hudgens film.

We should be grateful that we finally get to see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, even if it is reduced to the solitary comfort of our own living rooms. It is as charming, funny and warmly-satisfying as any big screen release you’ll see this year. As a glimpse inside the wide-eyed world of the teenager, it is the best John Hughes film that John Hughes never made. In referencing the late director, one wonders whether his classics Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club would even get a release today? Too much wit, warmth and heart for a quick sell to the target audience; not enough pastry-love or 'This one time, at bandcamp..." flute action.


Wed, 09/23/2009 - 11