We always recommend it to our students. We both teach high school classes a lot, and most of them aren't aware of this movie, even though it's the most honest and accurate depiction of that age. I guess they're early high school or middle school, they're about fourteen or fifteen. There's almost a documentary feel to it. At the time, the [kids] weren't professional actors, though a lot of them have gone on to acting.
[Director] Peter Sollett did such a beautiful job. It's so loose and warm and real and naturalistic and funny and unexpected. So much of it wasn't rehearsed, and they let a lot of that process unfold while they made the movie. The kids sort of do their own dialogue. But I remember seeing it and thinking, "I've never seen it done that well before." Usually I think teenagers are overwritten, written by much older people. Sort of reinventing. VV:
Or they simplify it too much. They take out all the complexity. DE:
Even some of the very best movies still have these caricatures of teenagers. This was a kind of time, and place -- these kids are supposed to be, I think, on the lower east side -- that you don't see very often in film. It's not like, "Here's the jock." VV:
Here's the cheerleader. DE:
[Laughs.] Yeah, I mean, all these things obviously exist to some extent, but this was just, "Here are people." And these are four main kids who are sort of just making their first forays into romance and what it means to be young men and young women. It doesn't talk down to them, it doesn't assume things. It all sort of flows from within these young people and from the actors themselves, and it has a humanity that I don't think has been achieved before or after in depictions of people that age. So I always thrust it on our students, especially young Latino students who don't see a whole lot of depictions of themselves in American movies. VV:
You also get such a sense of summer in the city. The heat, the pavement, the flamingo and the swimming pool, how refreshing that feels. It such a hard thing to translate. DE:
That's exactly right. Because, you know, he filmed it in the exact places where it was set. That's what Sollett does great, and he did it really well with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
, too, filming everything on location so it feels true. I think he owes something to French New Wave. I know it seems like a stretch, but there's just something so real and true about the way he chooses to film and find his way on location and with a lot of improvisation. It takes a real artist to pull that off.
But, you know, we're in our late thirties now. Maybe we're too far away. I'm sure I could show Raising Victor Vargas
to a sixteen-year-old student of mine and they'd be like, "No, no, it's not like that at all." It's all very subjective. But I thought Nick and Norah
felt a bit like Lost in Translation
. The cinematography was similar. We really liked it even though it's a world away from where we are now. I can imagine somebody who's 21 feeling different about it. But it worked for us.