Toronto Reviews: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist / Meirelles' Blindness
by Alex Billington
September 8, 2008
We're right smack in the middle of yet another day here at the Toronto Film Festival. In an attempt to catch up, I've put together two reviews for two films I saw on the same day. They couldn't be more different but both have their merits and both have their flaws. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a film that I've been looking forward to, but wasn't the most excited to see, while Blindness was a film that I've been anxious to catch ever since Marco gave it a fairly good review from Cannes. Nick and Norah turned out to be the remarkably sweet little comedy that I didn't know I was in the mood for and Blindness turned out to be a rough film to actually watch, not to mention enjoy. Take a look at both full reviews below.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Directed by: Peter Sollett
Toronto Rating: 8 out of 10
What do you get when you throw an awkward heartbroken music lover and a socially misfit rich girl together in a car for a night in New York City? One of the sweetest romantic comedies all year long - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It's tough to compare comedies, especially when Tropic Thunder (which is one of my current favorites), couldn't be more different from Nick and Norah, but here I am comparing the laughter in one to another. As of this moment, I would call this film one of my favorites of the fest, but that might change as time goes on. It's not the newest timeless comedy classic, but the film's charm is overwhelming and should leave audiences with a smile on their face.
As I already mentioned, the story is about too awkward high school kids named Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) that end up spending a night together driving around New York City falling in love. It's not that simple, but it is a romantic comedy where the story pulls itself together as the film moves on, give or take a particular moment where I thought all hope was lost. Right from the beginning, we see that Nick and Norah are made for each other, but it takes time and overcoming personal faults on both sides for each to realize that. The brilliant soundtrack and musical selection is as exceptional as anyone might expect, but the chemistry between Cera and Dennings wasn't as strikingly perfect as I'd hoped it would be. The two worked enough to convince me, but it wasn't as pristine as Juno.
One of the biggest problems with films like this is that I set my expectations too high, and I wanted to see the next unforgettable punk rock Juno with an awesome soundtrack and great love story. Alas, that wasn't exactly the film that Nick and Norah was, instead it was full of stupid humor surrounding Norah's drunk friend and some writing choices that weren't as polished as they should've been. Overall it's a fine film that younger audiences will definitely fall in love with themselves, but it has some flaws that detract from the overall experience. If you love high school humor and awkward comedies as much as I do, then give Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist a chance - I'm sure you'll find an entertaining and sweet film just as I did.
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
Toronto Rating: 6 out of 10
Fernando Meirelles is a filmmaker who I've been anxiously following ever since I saw City of God. Blindness is his latest film, an apocalyptic and considerably brutal drama adapted from José Saramago's novel about an epidemic of blindness that overtakes the entire world. It's very hard to actually "enjoy" a film that's as cruel as this, but I'm not going to say that this film doesn't have its merits. Meirelles is a very talented filmmaker and both Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo do a great job in the lead roles, but the film has such a wicked story that after a certain point audiences will get tired of watching it.
From the very start, we see that a mysterious "disease" that instantly causes blindness brings out the very worst in people. Ruffalo plays an optometrist who looks at the man's eyes but can't find anything wrong. The next morning he wakes up blind as well, but remarkably his wife is still able to see. The government rapidly starts to quarantine those who are blind and sends them to wards in an abandon insane asylum. As the numbers grow and the disease spreads, more and more blind people are dropped off into the hospital and a society begins to form. Unfortunately the worst in human nature starts to creep out and the already disgusting conditions get worse when one of the wards confiscates the food and attempts to sell it back to everyone else, all while Moore remains the only person who still has sight.
I actually really love Meirelles' filmmaking aptitude - he's an powerful creative talent that just needs to given a sandbox big enough to play in. Blindness has all of the visual elements down, in fact the visuals in it are absolutely genius, but the story and the brutality pull the film out of that beauty and into the darkness. Meirelles has done a fantastic job of allowing the audience to experience all of the other senses that a human has without sight: specifically, sound and feeling. These are subtlety highlighted in Blindness in a remarkable way, courtesy of Meirelles' creativity. And his use of white glows and entirely white frames was also a brilliant way of giving the audience a glimpse of how it feels for all of these people.
Unfortunately I wish could speak so highly of the story and of the film overall, but I can't. Blindness really fails to succeed on the apocalyptic levels like I Am Legend and is often-times too revolting to enjoy. It's a good film, but most will find it a challenge in itself to sit through - good luck!