Let’s get one thing straight right up top. There is no infinite playlist in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. This is not a magical realist movie.

It is, however, a magical movie. An enchanting movie. Full of little, unexpected surprises. I readily forgave its faults and went along for the ride.

Nick and Nora is set in that most magical of cities, New York City. And the characters are in that magical stage of young adulthood where music means everything and love and sex are a river running secretly beneath your feet.

Nick (Michael Cera) is a bass player in a band with two gay guys (Rafi Gavron and Aaron Yoo) who desperately want to see him get over his needy ex (Alexis Dzienza). When they notice Nora (Kat Dennings) has taken an interest, they arrange to take Nora’s drunk friend (Ari Graynor) home so Nick and Nora can be together. Adventures in the city ensue, set to an alterna-rock soundtrack.

Director Peter Sollet, whose equally magical Raising Victor Vargas was as great an evocation of adolescence as I’ve seen in cinema, doesn’t always get the most believable line reads from his actors, but the movie is believable where it counts, which is the central relationship between Nick and Nora and in the ineffable feeling of being young with the big city at your feet.

I imagine Micheal Cera lent his considerable improvisatory skills to the script by Lorene Scafaria (based on the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan). The movie is full of hilarious little turns of phrase, mostly from Cera’s Nick. Upon encountering an intimidating homeless man (Andy Samberg), Nick tells him in a quivering voice, “I’m going to run away.” And then yells, while running, “I’m running away.”

And what other movie would build a musical sequence around a mob of people trying to convince a drunk girl to unlock the doors of the car she’s stuck in? Clearly, I fell under the spell of this movie, and given my confessed nostalgia for New York City, perhaps this is unsurprising.

Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist is the rare sincere movie that is also funny, and the perfect antidote to the cynicism that is in full bloom in this election season.

SPIN mag on the music
Cera and Dennings “interview” about Nick and Nora – really just a few quotes
NPR interview with Levithan and Cohn
Spout interview with Peter Sollett