Michael Cera is a little bit of a superstar. Maybe it's a temporary trend and he'll disappear into the background, but I doubt it. The guy has found a niche and is milking it for all it's worth. And Kat Dunnings is doing a bit of the same, as I swear she played Norah the same way she played her role in Anna Faris' The House Bunny. Cut, awkward, and snarky. Like Kristen Stewart, but good.
The book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan was a quick back-and-forth, as each author tackled alternating chapters. David wrote Nick's story, while Rachel wrote Norah's. Seeing the story told through their eyes as they spend the night getting to know each other for all their goods and bads made for a fun romp.
The movie approached the story in a different way, which I should have expected. The alternating chapters disappear and the narrative is a seamless blend of Nick and Norah spending the night in New York City together--and apart at some points. Ultimately, this felt very much like Nick's story though, with Norah as what felt like a prominent set piece. I'm sure that was more of an editing job, since Michael Cera's stock is through the roof after Superbad and Juno.
A lot of the story from the book makes it into the movie, like Nick being the bass player in a dysfunctional "queer-core" band, and Norah already knowing Nick somewhat as an admirer of his pining playlists and lyrics from the mixed CDs he makes for his ex-girlfriend. Something that gets brought into the foreground more in the movie is Nick's bandmates when they offer to take Norah's drunken friend home, so Nick and Norah can hang out searching for Where's Fluffy, an elusive indy band. I guess the director was hoping to capture a bit of the much-familiar teen slapstick as Norah's friend escapes the band's van and tries to find her own way home. It felt tacked on though and really didn't need to be added.
And there were other bits and pieces in the movie that really strayed from the book, I thought. The ending pretty much stays the same, though there were a couple of racier scenes that were conspicuous by their absence. I have a feeling scenes involving teen sexuality were frowned upon when trying to get a PG rating for this movie, so I guess that was inevitable.
Winner: The book. Ultimately, I thought a movie dealing so closely with music would hook me more than the book, but it's the way the story is told in the book through Nick and Norah's shared love of music that really made the story stand out. The film sadly become just one more teen romance/comedy that was a little more palatable than most, but hardly a standout among the best.