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This week:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Filthy says:
"So fucking cute it makes you shit your pants!"

A while back, a beloved member of my family passed away. When we went through her belongings, we found a small-town-library's worth of romance novels. At first this saddened me, because romance novels are like that foamy insulation shit called "Right Stuff" you spray into the cracks around your house. The novels are meant to fill in all the little gaps and protect the reader from letting in the sorrow and grief of real life.

Or so I thought. I was given the choice of helping move all the heavy furniture out of the deceased's house or hiding in the attic, reading her secret stash of Harlequin Romances. I discovered that those books are some seriously fucked up shit. The publishers start you with "gateway" paperbacks meant to draw you in and hook you on their formulas of wealthy cads and the women who eventually love them. They claim you won't ever want more, just like the makers of cough medicine swear trying a few spoonfuls during cold season won't lead to huffing aerosol modeling paints or fishing through your neighbor's garbage for used fentanyl patches to scrape and smoke.

The entry-level Silhouette and Harlequin books were part of series called "Romantic Interludes" and "Tepid Intrigues," stories that wound their way through a jungle or medieval castle to wholly unsatisfying endings. Maybe there is a hug or a peck on a cheek and a promise of a wonderful, married life full of children. Once you read about ten of those, though, you get a little hungry for a more complete ending, and the publishers happily ramp things up with the "Forever Love" and "Eternal Flame" series. Somewhere in the middle of those, there's a kiss. At the end, there is a vague reference to some under-the-sheet hanky-panky. Oh, and of course, marriage and children.

I won't go through the entire list of cheaply printed opiates I read in the attic. I'll just say that by the time I had gotten halfway through my beloved deceased's collection I had found the "Fiery Passions" and "Night of Desire" novels, where men's dicks were called rippling bulges and velvet shafts, and the right rough finger on a woman's nipple sent shivers of pleasure through her taut body. Beyond that were the stacks of "Instant Gratifications" where the humping started on page one, mouths were always full of genitalia, and the threesomes only ended long enough at the end to declare a happy marriage and lots of kids. When even that hardcore action wasn't enough, the reader could turn to the really kinky ones. In one corner, where I dared not go, were the piles of "Anal Awakenings", "Steaming Steamers" and "Bathed in Gold" collections. I figure the autoerotic asphyxiation probably began on the "About the Author" page, and ended just long enough for the kids to be born and mature so they could have someone shit in their mouths.

The point is, nobody knew that my beloved deceased's interest in romance novels was anything more than a cute way of dealing with our neglect of her. We had no idea she'd gotten hooked and let the publishers push deeper and cruder fixes to satisfy her cravings, and forever distort her idea of what true love is.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a romantic comedy, a genre that generally makes me want to not only gouge my eyes out, but also those of a stranger, then stick all the eyeballs in a blender and grind them into a sticky paste. The only thing stopping me is, if I gouge my eyes out, I won't be able to find a blender. I've watched enough Roadrunner cartoons to understand the biology of trying to function with no eyeballs. You can get yourself into some serious shit that way. So, I keep having to watch the fucking things. The reason I told the story about the romance novels is not because I wish I had smuggled a few of the nastier ones home with me for later re-reading and highlighting of particular passages. I mean, sure, I wish I'd done that, but that's the sort of thing I just don't admit to strangers. No, it's because movies have the same sort of progression as those books.

At the very bottom of the pecking order are the neutered romantic comedies like Nick and Norah. The movie is so fucking cute and sweet it reminds me of all those shitty Belle and Sebastian songs, or crap like Mates of State and Moldy Peaches. I strongly believe that if you want a romantic movie, you should know what you expect. Like, take a date to Vicky Christina Barcelona and you'll probably get laid afterward. Take her to The Lover or The Swimming Pool and you might get some reverse cowgirl, or doogy-style. Want a threesome, take her to Mulholland Drive.

Take a girlto Nick and Norah, though, and you're basically telling your date you really want to go home and cuddle. Oh, and de-pill each other's cardigan sweaters. It sure as hell doesn't make you want to hump. Well, it made me want to hump, but so does the dude on the Quaker Oats box, and dust bunnies, and runny noses. I'm just wired that way. For most people, though, this level of adorable cuteness is a heavy dose of salt peter.

The names Nick and Nora(h), are from the great Hammett classic The Thin Man about a drunkard couple of high-society sleuths. They made a fine movie out of it with flawed characters, a nice dog, and some seriously bitter and sharp dialog. None of those elements show up in this movie. I suspect the names were just another weak attempt at irrelevant cutesyness.

Michael Cera plays Nick, a mopey musician in a hoodie who is droopy because of a breakup. Kat Dennings is Norah, a music-loving Jewish girl at a catholic high school who scoops up all the mix CDs that Cera's ex-girlfriend dumps in the trash. She is in love with Cera's musical taste before she meets him.

As fate would have it, the two do meet and spend an evening together, chasing all over low-rent Manhattan and Brooklyn looking for Denning's drunk friend and the secret concert given by a band called "Where's Fluffy". Oh, and they fall in love, culminating in a fingering session in a recording studio.

Of course, along the way, they encounter a shitload of predictable obstacles. Both Cera and Dennings have exes who are sleazy but want back in. And Dennings and Cera, despite how obviously suited for each other they are, have to make "tough" decisions about who to choose. The choices would be more interesting and create more tension if the outcome weren't so fucking obvious after about two minutes into the movie.

Cera's rock band is two gay guys and him. The gay men become the Greek chorus of the movie, as they always seem to do in movies written by and for women. I don't exactly understand when and how gay men got so wise and sassy, and so supportive of their straight friends. It's pretty fucking annoying, though. It strikes me as patronizing and dehumanizing, and it essentially desexualizes them. I mean, if went for gay men, retards and old black men would get all of Hollywood's sassy and wise roles.

Director Peter Sollett dumbs things down a notch with some very unimaginative scenes. When Cera must decide between his ex-girlfriend dancing for him and Dennings in a van halfway across the city, he gives us a montage of what Cera is thinking; all of those gauzy shots of he and Dennings laughing and meeting. Good fucking God, don't they use this same technique of MTV's Next? Does Sollett really think we don't remember what we saw thirty minutes earlier? Shots of the live music venues of New York at least show us places like the Bowery Ballroom, but it mixes in some made up places, and they all look too clean and well-behaved to be real.

That pretty much sums up the dialog, too. Actually, there is a lot of decent chit chat, some of which made me laugh, some made me smile. A shitload of it just felt conveniently cute, though, like a Beanie Baby in a Happy Meal. Cera gets most of the sappy lines, while Dennings mostly just has to act put upon. Her friend has to haul around a gross-out storyline about a piece of chewing gum that lands in a toilet, the ground and several mouths. That line actually has a couple of laughs before it gets old. The gay guys have no funny lines, but they get a lot of screen time.

Nick and Norah just doesn't mean anything, though. It's made to be as flaccid as the dick of a guy who took his date to it. There is no tension because everyone involved is too afraid to make it seem like Cera and Dennings will do anything but end up together. They have no sexual tension, because they aren't in any way sexually attracted, or sexually attractive. They are just two people defined by their improbable decentness, and who must wind up together.

I say, let 'em. But let them snuggle and rub noses in private. When they move out of their "Mellow Desires" phase and move on to wanting a bit more "Dirty Sanchez Moments" get back to me. And they will, because shit this mellow won't even satisfy an elderly woman for long. Two Fingers for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Shawn Edwards of Fox-TV

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is "Four Stars! Hilarious!"

Apaloosa is "Four stars! An American Classic!"

Sounds like we've entered the new golden age.

Filthy's Reading
The New Yorker

Listening to
Silver Jews - American Water


Coffee and Cigarettes