Recently heartbroken Nick (Cera) is still pining for his ex (Dziena) and remains oblivious to the candle that Norah (Dennings) holds for him, chiefly because she loves his mix CDs. During a long night spent chasing around Manhattan for a secret gig, Nick and Norah are thrown together...
Even before the credits roll, this is identifiably a film starring Michael Cera. You can tell because a poppy, mournful guitar track plays as the film company logos appear, and the former Arrested Development star seems to have painted himself into a poppy, mournful corner, career-wise. The music is the aural equivalent to Cera’s slightly befuddled, eternally romantic manchild character, but after Superbad and Juno it’s wearing a tiny bit thin.
That’s not to say that this is a bad film, or that he’s bad in it. Cera’s well cast as Nick, the sadsack bassist in “queercore” band The Jerk-Offs (and its only straight member), who is oblivious to the charms of the adorable Norah (Denning), so hung up is he on shallow ex Tris (Dziena). Nick’s obtuseness is explained by Norah’s backwardness in coming forwards, and the fact that the film strays close to real life, full of drunk friends who pass out messily, and acquaintances more trouble than they’re worth. Nick and Norah’s exchanges, too, are awkward enough to remind you of conversations you’ve had.
The problem is that the realism makes the plot contrivances more jarring. So, the fabulous band mates are just a hair too camp, and there are a few too many coincidental meetings around Manhattan. The film’s most egregious error is to make Nick’s ex an appalling caricature: it’s not sufficient that she broke his heart; we also learn that she cheated on him throughout and throws his closure-seeking mix CDs callously in the bin. Teen hormones or not, anyone who dated that for six months is patently unworthy of the lovely Norah.
The musics great, if predictable, and the talented young cast give it their all. We just wish that Cera would try something new.