Being a feminist means that one of the first things I assess in a film, and it happens mostly subconsciously - a little inkling that nags at my enjoyment, is how women are written. That is the basis of my issue with movies like Superbad, films I could have otherwise enjoyed had the women been more than just props or objects - or not there at all. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist passes the Bechdel Test, but barely. It has one fully formed female character, and the other two girls in the movie come off more as blatant stereotypes of girls and girlish behavior than characters in their own right. My friend and co-blogger, John, wrote about the book Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (a book I’ve yet to read, which is why this is merely about the film for the film’s sake), and describes Caroline being “not just a Tara Reid wannabe”, and Tris not simply being an example of the Evil Ex. Unfortunately for the film, both of those nuances were lost. Caroline is sweet, and the actress plays drunk well. And, aside from the fact that I imagine at some point Caroline would pass out to not party again in the course of the night, her selfish, whiny, myopic and beer-goggled vision of the night is pretty much on target for an extremely drunk person. Even her obsession with her gum comes across as something that could have been ripped from some poor friends’ account of a terrible night dealing with the drunkie of the evening. But because she is one of three girls who the movie focuses - even briefly - on, it becomes troubling that her drunken (and lost, and broke) state is all she has to demonstrate. Norah comes across as even more extraordinary as she searches the city for the lost Caroline and admits to Nick at one point that she is a very good friend - the implication being that Caroline is not one. That could even be excused, if not for Tris. Friendships are sometimes one-sided and drunk people are not always (or even often) fun to deal with. But Tris’ portrayal in the film is of a girl who cares deeply only about herself, who is upset that Nick has potentially gotten over her not because she still likes him but because she likes the adulation she still receives from him. She seems proud of the fact that she did, in fact, break Nick. And she is almost offended that Nick could and would move on, even though she is dragging poor Gary around the city and apparently cheated on Nick throughout their six months of dating. John has assured me that Tris is something more in the book, and that her relationship with Norah was more nuanced. But the movie gives us three women, and two of them have one to two dimensions - and those dimensions are not pleasant. Norah is the exceptional woman of the film, in part because she has a heart and a working brain. In a way, the movie kind of grades women like a Sarah Palin debate; the barest minimum necessary to be a good person is more than passing. Norah has more than the barest minimum, but the other two girls (if this were a debate) would have fallen off of the stage at one point.
Believe it or not, the review is actually mostly positive in nature, as I really enjoyed the film. But that does not mean it didn't have some problems. Anyway, the rest of it is here.