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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
to tell Filthy Something?