In the 1960s, American studios discovered young actors with a vengeance. With a range that stretched from great films like Blowup to exploitational jokes like The Catalina Caper, these movies tried to represent a groovy new ethos, the hip morality of those crazy Boomers, reinforced with inharmoniously hip soundtracks and band performances that somehow lent credibility to otherwise shaky endeavors. Blowup had swinging London and the Yardbirds, Catalina had a woebegone Little Richard on a boat. This film has a cheesy cameo by Devendra Banhart (who ought to know better) and music that doesn’t exactly blow-the tracks were assembled by Mark (Devo) Mothersbaugh, who’s been putting cool tunes into movies for the last 10 years, but now seems out of his league. Even Garden State, which young people tend to ridicule, had a far more visionary mix. Meanwhile Nick & Nora, which has the soundtrack in its title, limps by with okay bands like Bishop Allen and Vampire Weekend-not exactly cutting-edge stuff.
The music’s important because it’s also a metaphor for the film, which also seems a bit faked. The film opens with many obvious steals from Juno, like Michael Cera and squiggly animation. It also tries halfheartedly to weave the sense of being in the moment of the New York club scene into a plot that’s part Adventures in Babysitting, a bit American Graffiti, and a nicer Lost in New York. The writing is occasionally funny, and casually romantic, but it never feels really current. It’s an adult studio’s idea of youth on a dawn patrol, looking for love and a mythical band called Where’s Fluffy? The film would’ve been much better with a real band, in the manner that the Ramones informed Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.
There is chemistry between mild-mannered superstar Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, but it’s almost entirely based on mutual physical cuteness and, with the exception of Cera’s moving late-night speech declaring, “We are all fragments,” very little of the dialogue is memorably elegant, or anything (like Juno) that truly sounds like teen spirit