High Fidelity (2000)

2010-03-05 13:26
High Fidelity classic movie


Based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Rob (John Cusack) is a specialist record store owner and compulsive list-maker whose long-time girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) suddenly leaves him. His response is to track down five of his previous girlfriends and ask them what went wrong in their relationships.


"John Dillinger was killed behind that theatre in a hail of FBI gunfire. And do you know who tipped them off? His fucking girlfriend. All he wanted to do was go to the movies." The razor-sharp wit in High Fidelity cuts to the bone. It is simultaneously laugh-out-loud hilarious, bitingly insightful, and brain-twistingly sophisticated. Something for everyone, then.

As a result, as one critic said, it is unbelievably hard to not love this movie. It is without a doubt the defining film of John Cusack’s not-altogether-unimpressive screenwriting and acting career. Rob shoehorns all the best parts of Cusack’s trademark everyman characterisations into one smart, complex, witty, likeable and perpetually doomed archetype.

See, ultimately, High Fidelity is not a romantic comedy. Yes, it’s funny, and yes, it kinda revolves around a romantic theme. But there’s no eventual happy ending to this movie – at least not a traditional one. There are no hilarious hi-jinks with cutesy transformations of the girl who takes her glasses off in the end. There’s no running to catch a plane to stop her leaving the country forever. These are the things that rom-coms are made of. This is no rom-com.

Instead there’s a dangerously complex and deep existential question - the kind that traditional romantic moviegoers don’t like to contemplate. There’s a huge amount of self-referential banter and fourth wall demolition. There’s a lot of pseudo-intellectual baiting, too. And it is still one of the best comedies concerning romance (and music) made to date.

A parallel universe exists within Championship Records, Rob’s record store, where music geeks Barry and Dick (a scene-stealing Jack Black and Todd Louiso) continually berate customers in-between asking each other for top-five music lists. It’s a great character device because music defines so many of our "real" lives. What better way to make abstract concepts like romance and love and life than to contextualise it through pop music? As Rob opines:

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

Instead of showing us a love story, High Fidelity is asking us how love invades and evades us. It’s a movie that doesn’t show us where love is, but attempts to ask how it would have gotten there. Quite literally, High Fidelity is an art project that became a pop masterpiece.

A bit of trivia: [from IMDB.com]

-    In several scenes, Rob is wearing a Wax Trax! Records T-shirt. The lot in Chicago that houses Rob's record store, Championship Vinyl, was once a Wax Trax! Records store.

-    This is the eighth film in which John Cusack and sister Joan Cusack have appeared together. The others are Class (1983), Sixteen Candles (1984), Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), Broadcast News (1987), Say Anything... (1989), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and Cradle Will Rock (1999)

-    When we first see Rob's record store, Rob walks across the store exposing many record covers in the background. One record that stands out is a record by the group, Index. Index were a 1960s garage band from Grosse Pointe, Michigan. (Cusack starred in the 1997 movie Grosse Point Blank)

-    The closing track "I Believe" was originally performed by Stevie Wonder and was later covered by Art Garfunkel and Peter Frampton. All three are artists that Rob, Dick, and Barry make fun of in the movie.

-    In 2006, High Fidelity was made into a Broadway musical starring Will Chase, Jenn Colella, Jeb Brown and Rachel Stern. However it only ran for a month.

Memorable quotes:

Rob: Should I bolt every time I get that feeling in my gut when I meet someone new? Well, I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.

Laura: Listen, Rob, would you have sex with me? Because I want to feel something else than this. It either that, or I go home and put my hand in the fire. Unless you want to stub cigarettes out on my arm.
Rob: No. I only have a few left, I've been saving them for later.
Laura: Right. It'll have to be sex, then.
Rob: Right. Right.

Rob: Sometimes I got so bored of trying to touch her breast that I would try to touch her between her legs. It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead.

Rob: The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway... I've started to make a tape... in my head... for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done.

Rob: I could've wound up having sex back there. And what better way to exorcise rejection demons than to screw the person who rejected you, right? But you wouldn't be sleeping with a person, you'd be sleeping with the whole sad, single-person culture. It'd be like sleeping with Talia Shire in Rocky if you weren't Rocky.

Rob: I was jealous of other men in her design department. I became convinced that she was going to leave me for one of them. Then she left me for one of them.

Rob: ... I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films - these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the fuckin' truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life.

A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favourites.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.