Back in the 1980s, the Brat Pack movies of John Hughes like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off had a shiny high school exterior, a hip soundtrack and connected with the angst of its audience: Judd Nelson's brooding rebel in detention with the rest of The Breakfast Club suffered physical abuse from his father; Ferris Bueller's homelife may have been peachy keen but his friend Cameron had cold and aloof parents and the only way he could get their attention was to trash the old man's Ferrari. Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist has the cool music, diffident dialogue and the goofy ensemble of a John Hughes movie, without the angst. And John Hughes was hardly Ingmar Bergman, was he?
The closest competitor to Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist in the lack of tension department is High School Musical 3: Senior Year. If the High School franchise makes it to college, you can imagine it playing out much like this. The plot of Nick And Nora is an episode of 'Hollyoaks' rolled out flat and thin.
Nick (Michael Cera) is the only straight guy in a gay band, the Jerk-Offs. His gay bandmates own a van and are half Queer Eye For A Straight Couple and half Greek chorus; they whoop , they suggest more appropriate bras, they help tie the bow in the shoelace of a plot. Nick has been burning CDs for Tris (Alexis Dziena), who has dumped him. He titles these CDs 'Road To Closure'. Tris tosses them aside, but Nora (Kat Denning) rips them into her iPod. She loves his playlist. Will Nick and Nora get together, do you think?
The soundtrack is most of the film, although there is nothing here as iconic as John Hughes' use of Simple Minds, if only because the music has nothing by way of on-screen drama to launch it. Nick and Nora embark on a picaresque quest across the city, searching for her drunk friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) and a secret gig by their favourite band, Where's Fluffy?, whose symbol of a white rabbit is a nice reference to 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland'.
Along the way, they dance to Devendra Banhart (who cameos here) shoot the breeze to Vampire Weekend, and shake off their respective exes. While Nick works issues with the ever-present Triss, Nora has to ditch "friend with benefits" Tal (Jay Baruchel). Tal just wants her to pass on his crappy CD to her dad who is someone very important in the music business (his identity is the only mystery in the film, and the revelation is another disappointment).
Michael Cera is the human equivalent of a pair of blue Converse All Stars: an icon of everyday geek chic, stubbornly hip, cool no matter how you accessorise him. Likewise, Kat Dennings wears the mantle of coolest girl in town lightly. But this is just a hipster variation on chick-lit: conventional, easy, and tedious at heart but with an alt twist, a Generation Y equivalent to the Generation X cash-ins of the 1990s, like Reality Bites, and really not fit to wear John Hughes' Wayfarers. Apple will be happy though - the iPod and iTunes placements are really core to the narrative and not just arbitrary pack shots.