You could call this movie the teenage version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, only it's less pathetic and we don't get as many annoying characters as we did in that spring comedy.
At least, that's how the film starts out. Michael Cera (Superbad and Juno) plays Nick, a guitarist in a high school band who just broke up with his girlfriend. Nick is wallowing, depressed over having lost her and is desperate to get her back. He doesn't stand outside her window trying to serenade her. Instead, he merely sends her mix CDs. They're like mix tapes, except the songs were probably put together using iTunes or Pro Tools.
What I didn't like about Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that the guy in that film spent a little too much time wallowing and being depressed. He said he was in his funk for weeks or more, and once he got a new prospect, a potential new girlfriend, it took him nearly another week to realize it. Here, Nick is offered the opportunity for a new girlfriend and it only takes him one night to realize it.
Yes, the film takes place all in one night. It's not as fancy as jetting off to a tropical resort vacation. It's basically just a bunch of teenagers driving around the streets of Manhattan with a stopover in Brooklyn, but this film is not as over-the-top. Plus the fact, it's so much better written and doesn't take as long to get to the real juicy and funnier parts.
The only part of Forgetting Sarah Marshall that I thought was enjoyable was toward the end once it became apparent that Sarah Marshall was jealous of her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. In this film, that clearly right up front, which gives them and us more time to have fun with it. It's not wasted as in that other film.
Readers of young adult novels will appreciate this adaption of the teen novel of the same name. They might be interested to know that while the story in the book kicks off when Nick asks Norah, a veritable stranger, to be his girlfriend for five minutes and then kisses her, the story in the film kicks off when the reverse happens.
First published in 2006, the young adult book was written by Rachel Cohn, a writer from New York City, and David Levithan, an openly gay author from New Jersey. Cohn and Levithan are best friends who collaborated. Both had won awards for work they've previously written for teen readers.
But, it was Lorene Scafaria who wrote the script for this movie. It's her first produced screenplay, and Scafaria makes it so that it's Norah who makes the first move and not Nick. While it would probably be any teen male's fantasy to have a girl come up to him and kiss him, even if it's an Anne Frank-looking girl who's nowhere near as hot as Sarah Marshall, Paris Hilton, or even Nick's ex, named Tris, in a post-pubescent, Sex and the City-kind of way, it's somewhat emboldening for a teen girl.
It's also somewhat emboldening to see Michael Cera's Nick get the girl in the end. Like Seth Rogen, Cera is currently the poster child for geeky kids anywhere who hope of getting the girl of their dreams, or at least any girl who'll put up with them. It's obvious from Cera's previous films that he is the king of awkward teenage angst. He's not like these young guys who are Calvin Klein or Abercrombie-wannabe models. He's a skinny, boyish kid who, like many, continues to suffer from arrested development, but he's sweet and heartfelt.
Norah, played by Kat Dennings (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Charlie Bartlett), is classically beautiful in every way. She has a definite wit and charm that's a combination of hopeless romantic and street-smart woman, not unlike Carrie Bradshaw, but with darker hair and a kind of a sharp edge. She's a music-loving, fun, free-spirited person, but you can tell that there's something in her that is a little guarded and a little hesitant.
To help push her, or maybe help drag her along is her best friend, Caroline, played by Ari Graynor (An American Crime and Game 6). It's funny that there are so many Saturday Night Live cameos in this movie because Graynor plays Caroline like Andy Samberg's drunk girl sketch. She's totally wasted and gets into some various precarious situations. Actually, they're less precarious and more just disgusting. Though when we're not turning our head, we're cracking up in hilarious spasms.
To help Nick along and get him out of his funk are his two homosexual friends, Thom, the band's fellow guitarist, played by Aaron Yoo (Disturbia and 21), and, Dev, the band's lead vocalist, played by Rafi Gavron (Breaking and Entering and Rome). When they're not trying to come up with a name for their band, they're scoping out cute guys and trying to find the location of Where's Fluffy.
To throw a monkey wrench into the whole boy meets girl plan, there is of course the exes, not just Nick's but also Norah's, Tal, played by Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder). He's in a rival band who may be only trying to get back together with Norah for reasons other than for love. His is a very limited role, but he's part of a great ensemble of young actors who we all should definitely keep our eyes on.
This film is very electric. It becomes evident why New York is nicknamed the "city that never sleeps." This film captures the big apple's nightlife, from these kids' perspective, very cleverly and makes us want to wander with them. The film also has a great appreciation for music. Nick's band performs the irreverent "I Want to Screw That Man," but the rest of the songs are a tad more sentimental and romantic, intriguing and enchanting.
Produced by Paul and Chris Weitz, the guys who brought us the American Pie movies, this film deals with kids who are slightly younger but existing in a tone that is vastly more mature. Director Peter Sollett, who a few years ago delivered an amazing independent film, Raising Victor Vargas (2002), regarding a Hispanic teenager also struggling with relationships, delivers another small and solid piece of cinema. This film may not have the emotional punch as that one, but this is a great follow-up.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.