Nick (Michael Cera) has just broken up with his girlfriend of six months, Tris (Alexis Dziena), or rather she has broken up with him, and he still carries a torch for her, regularly making her mix CDs which unbeknownst to him she throws away, thinking he's a loser. But also unbeknownst to Nick, when Tris throws the discs away, Norah (Kat Dennings) picks them up and really enjoys them, even though they have never met. So when Nick is dragged out of his gloom by the other members of his band, the stage is set for a meeting...
This unassuming little comedy suffered from its identification in some views as a paean to the hipster lifestyle, but not really getting picked up by that self same lifestyle due to its perceived geekiness; it it did muster up a cult following among those who gave it a chance and responded to its sweetness. Not helping with those reluctant to offer it some cultural leeway was the way one of its stars, Michael Cera, was seen as ploughing the same dramatic furrow for one movie too many, a curious turn of events as if you found something you were good at as an actor, there was no reason why you shouldn't have milked it for all it was worth.
After all, you didn't hear audiences complaining "Not Arnold Schwarzenegger shooting up the place again!" or "Not Adam Sandler appearing in a dumb comedy for the millionth time!", did you? Well, OK, you probably did from some quarters, but Cera's doe-eyed interpretation of modern youthful masculinity was something quite refreshing in comparison with those super-confident leading men who usually populated Hollywood efforts. It was nice to see characters who did not claim to have all the answers, fumbling their way through life and trying to ensure the best opportunities they had would not slip through their fingers.
So if this was nothing new in the Cera canon, how about the comedy? Director Peter Sollet, working from an adaptation of a fairly popular book with the target audience, attempted to keep it all as realistic as possible, while remaining the right side of farce to generate the laughs. Nick and Norah do meet cute at that gig Nick's band are the support to, a band that specialise in gay rock even though our hero isn't (but his two fellow musicians are), but as Norah doesn't know who he is she makes the mistake of pretending to Tris that Nick is her new boyfriend. Tris turns green with envy in spite of picking up a different boy, and a tug of love develops.
This was really one of those "into the night" movies where the main character has all sorts of adventures over the course of an evening from dusk till dawn, except this time around there were two of those characters. Various encounters with the denizens of the hours after midnight ensue, and Nick and Norah make stop-start moves towards the true love they deserve with one another, sometimes arguing (she punches him up the throat at one point), at other times making each other laugh, so no matter the obstacles to their happy union, we feel confident it will all work out pleasingly by the final scene. If we were not dealing with much new aside from the fashionable songs playing constantly on the soundtrack, at least its meandering through good jokes and novel situations was amiable and well-played. The hardest hearts may not have agreed, but for the romantics who were that bit more reluctant to admit their feelings, it was winsome enough. Other music by Mark Mothersbaugh.