After seasons of mostly vapid teenage characters dominating the screen, big and small, Kat Dennings bucks the trend with her role in the movie “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” in theaters October 3.
Dennings plays Norah Silverman, a feisty high-school senior music fan whose all-nighter in Manhattan with new love interest Nick (Michael Cera who last year starred in the hits “Superbad” and “Juno”) evolves into a coming-of-age tale. Based on the young adult novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, the film, directed by Peter Sollett, presents an alternative portrait of your average Jewish American Princess. Norah, who is more “My So-Called Life” than “Gossip Girl,” shuns fashion in favor of flannel shirts, considers deferring her Brown University enrollment to work on a kibbutz, and tries to avoid the fame and attention she receives as a result of her big macher record producer father.
Though the movie adaptation left out some of the book’s Jewish components (the Forward itself makes an appearance in the novel, though not the film, as substitute for porn for Norah’s Israel-obsessed ex-boyfriend), Norah’s role as the anti-JAP remains. In both the book and the film, her explanation of tikkun olam serves as a pivotal moment. The concept of healing and putting pieces back together becomes a metaphor for true human connection, something these almost-adults are just beginning to learn.
Dennings, who is Jewish in real life and known for her other no-nonsense roles, like the unglamorous feminist in the recently released film “The House Bunny,” has said that this character is more like herself than any parts she has played in the past. Good thing, considering her only other Jewish role was her cameo as the bratty, pushy bat mitzvah girl on HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
This story "Nick and Norah: Not Your Average Teens" was written by Elissa Strauss.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.