Time out from the hell of the human condition

Saw a couple of delicious movies today, or yesterday I suppose, now that it’s past midnight. Both are American movies with some profile: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and The Brothers Bloom so already I’m beginning to question my early grouchy impressions that this year’s line-up of prominent films looks weak. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist stars Canadian puppy Michael Cera (Juno) as a heartbroken New York teen who has devoted himself to making brilliant mix-tapes for the stuck-up vixen who dumped him. One night, after playing a gig with his band—as the only hetero kid in a gay punk band called the Jerk Offs—he stumbles into a relationship with her infinitely more mature best friend (Kat Dennings). And they ride around New York all night, hoping to end up at a secret concert by a cult band called Where’s Fluffy.

Nick and Norah is like Juno without all the bother of a plot, never mind an issue—two barely legal characters amiably drifting through an indie-rock soundtrack and the Crayola cityscape of a benign New York nightlife. It’s romantic comedy unplugged. There’s not much to it, but its shy, minimalist vibe seems derived the music, as if the real script is the playlist of the score, colouring emotion and nuance between the faux-naif narrative lines. The leads, Cera and Dennings, have a disarming, offhand chemistry, an easy-going charm that is somehow juvenile and sophisticated all at once. Even if the bare-bones story strums at cliche like a three-chord riff, these two innocent old souls seem utterly original.  It’s like watching the young indie rock generation reinvent romantic comedy in their image, and for their peers.  I have to admit, I felt I was watching it from a parental remove. My first comment to a fellow critic as I left the theatre was: “I feel so old.” But then again, I think  even my 25-year-old son would feel old watching this film.

I’d like to go on to tell you about the The Brothers Bloom, an exquisite caper movie about a couple of con artists (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) and an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz). But it’s late and I’m running out of gas. Day Two approaches, and I’m still trying to get used to the idea of being treated to a double bill of two good movies at a film festival that have not left me brutalized, drained and in despair about the state of the world.

Throw in the Coen brothers’ Burn This After Reading, and the lazy, non-revisionist western Appaloosa, and it’s beginning to look like whimsical romance, screwball comedy and quaintly confectionary capers are cool again.

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