Having just read a redefinition of genre that puts Die Hard and Schindler’s List in the same category, I was naturally watching this movie with an eye on what category it might fall into. What are the rules of that genre? What is it that works and doesn’t work about this story?
I was, to be quite honest, disappointed, and I’m trying to figure out whether I’m just being brainwashed into formulaic movie writing, or whether there really was something about this movie that didn’t work. At the outset it seemed like a “Night of Chaos/Buddy Movie,” similar to Superbad, Go, American Graffiti, or Dazed and Confused, but it didn’t seem to know the rules of that genre. Of course, what makes that genre work is that young, immature individuals are after something, encounter a number of hiccups along the way, eventually get what they want and realize that they don’t really want it.
While Nick and Norah may not have missed the boat, they didn’t make it either. They’re sort of straddling the boat on that one. Nick starts the movie in love with Tris. Then it’s obvious he doesn’t want Tris, but goes back to her knowing he doesn’t want her, and then goes back to Norah. Norah starts the movie wanting someone like Nick, then gets Nick and sort of decides she doesn’t want him, then sort of decides she does, then goes back to her ex-boyfriend she knows she doesn’t like, before leaving him and winding up back with Nick.
Meanwhile, they’re trying to find a secret concert and trying to finding Norah’s drunk friend (Caroline). But these quests, too, are moving all over the place, and we’re never sure what they’re really after.
An accurate high school rollercoaster ride, maybe, but it made for surprisingly uninteresting cinema.
At first I was really happy that it didn’t just become a boy/girl rehash of Superbad, after they lose Caroline but find her only 30-45 minutes later. But by the time they found her, the heroes had lost their other quest, and were never really able to get it back.
There, I think, is the lesson we must take from this film – the hero must always be searching, and he must be clear on what he is searching for. Or if he’s not clear on what he’s searching for, we need to be clear that he’s not clear; that he’s searching for something to be searching for. We can all relate to being an aimless teenager, wanting to fit in, wanting to find the hot spot to get drunk, wanting to find the awesome band, wanting to be successful, wanting to find the girl and get laid, and not really knowing which of these is our priority. (For me it’s the last one.) The problem is that neither character was clear about any of this, so the film ended up being a jumbled mess.
There was, however, one gem recurring from yesterday’s post on finding the hammer. When drunk Caroline asks random guy at train station (a cameo by Kevin Corrigan) to hold her gum while she eats half of his turkey sandwich … he takes the gum and holds it. I realized, in that moment, how much more awesomely hilarious that was than the attempted rejection that would be obvious response to such a heinous request. And it completely worked. Don’t try to argue, just take the f***ing gum.
Overall, quite a few entertaining moments, but the amusing obstacles to their quest were lost in the swamp of structure that was this movie.