on September 15, 2000
It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't seen High Fidelity, or even someone who's just seen it once, how incredibly good it is. Take first the phenomenal John Cusack, who seems to make any film he appears in twice as watchable. Is there a more underrated leading man in this decade? I doubt it.
Then take into account the amazing support, knowns and unknowns - Cusack's sister Joan, Tim Robbins, Jack Black, etc. - even Zeta-Jones isn't half bad. Consider too the script, which is surprisingly faithful to Nick Hornby's (very good) book, and gives equal measure to comic and tragic relief.
Fianlly, the soundtrack. Can there be any greater song to sum up Rob Thomas (John Cusack's) final revelation after the film ends than Stevie Wonder's I Believe? No. High Fidelity is the complete package - funny, touching, well-acted, scripted, directed, scored for, and unbelievably true to life.
And for all those sad Englishmen writing in to complain that the movie should have been set in Britian - get real. I thank you.
If ever there was a movie that could be construed as an allegorical representation of my life, this is it. If ever there was a Romantic Comedy written primarily for men (as opposed to women & couples), this is it!
John Cusack plays your typical everyday kind of guy who just so happens to have the absolute WORST luck with women. Stability in his personal life is ever elusive and he continues to get dumped by the women he dates. Typically he is ditched because the girl "meets another guy, and....."
Like most men, Cusack's character wants to have things both ways. He wants to have continuity in his life, yet the idea of commitment scares the tar out of him. What if he takes that giant leap but isn't able to make it to the other side of the canyon? What if he meets an even more worthwhile girl 2 days after getting married? Ah, the variables of relationships that we men torture ourselves with.
Aside from the venerable Cusack the film also features Catherine Zeta Jones as the paridigmatic "perfect" girl who is continually just-out-of-reach for we mere mortals. She sizzles in her role and it's obvious that she relished the chance to play a sort of Supermodel-type girl who is a femme fatale.
There is a hilarious scene of Cusack's persona standing in the rain outside her home that perhaps every single heterosexual male will be able to relate to (from one point of his life or other). A nice touch in the story is how they bring out the fact that old boyfriends are incessantly contacting her to find out why she dumped them.
If you're interested in watching a Romantic Comedy that's a bit bleaker than most, this one might be for you. If you're a male like me who has undergone myriad rejections in his life, this DVD is a MUST see. For men like myself stories don't get too much more cathartic than this one!
on October 20, 2001
These are two of my favorite movies, although I have no idea what they're doing together. Different directors, different writers, not even a shared cast member. The only thing they have in common is that they are both owned by Touchstone Home Video, and they're both great movies.
Although... Now that I think about it, this union seems fitting. You see, both of our protagonists (Jason Schwartzman as Max in Rushmore, and John Cusack as Rob in High Fidelity) are having difficulties in their love lives. They are both largely incapable of relating to the world on any real level; Max is at his best when directing his plays, which are surreal adaptations of popular movies, while Rob is most comfortable seeing the world through the eyes (or rather hearing it through the ears) of pop music. They both obsess over lists: For Max, the yearbook's listing of his accomplishments at Rushmore Academy; for Rob, the Top Five lists he and his record-store employees compile to while away the hours. And in the end, they both find a way to live closer to reality.
I'm sure that's not what I was meant to get out of this coupling, but it's what I got.
Incidentally, the Criterion edition of Rushmore is outstanding. Assuming that this High Fidelity is the same edition I have, it could stand for some better features, but the movie stands up nicely on its own.
This Double Feature is definitely worth your time.
on July 3, 2000
There are rare movies that you watch and you go "That's Me!" and these are especially great movies if the next thought in your head is "I'm an idiot!" I watched this movie and I missed fighting with an ex-girlfriend who is still a best friend. I think a lot of people will see it that way.
Anyhow, John Cusack whose niche seems to be playing losers (Better Off Dead, Say Anything, Being John Malkovich, Tapeheads, etc.) plays one of the most appealing losers since Lloyd from Say Anything. His girlfriend has left him. His career is running a failing record store. He decides to go over all his past relationships to figure out what went wrong. Worse is that his girlfriend keeps coming back for her stuff and you start to realize that she is perfect for him, even as she walks off to start something with the politically correct granola ponytail wearing upstairs neighbor played with smug self-satisfaction by Tim Robbins (in the scene where John Cusack wants to beat him senseless, Tim Robbins plays the part so you the audience would also like to beat him senseless)
Through a series of lists (five most humiliating breakups, five best songs about burning things up. four things that my ex- told her best friend to make her best friend hate my guts)his two friends at the record store (they fit the record store stereotype clerk to the hilt - or comic book store clerk or any store with a cool selection. one's a jerk and the other one's a freaky loner) and a brief affair with Lisa Bonet (whose version of "Baby I Love Your Ways" SHOULD be on the soundtrack but isn't.) and the meetings with the previously mentioned five most humiliating breakups, the main character stops relating to the world as a carnival that's out to stick him in the lion cage and starts gaining perspective, even maturity.
By the end with John Cusack back with his girlfriend, you have absolutely no idea if they are going to stay together or break up again, but you really want them to stay together. If only to give the notion that it's worth growing up. This is a long movie, a movie with many subplots and counter subplots but an honest movie and a movie that will go down as one of the classics of honest romance movies in a sea of saccharine junk with plots that were written from a standard romantic plotline (they meet, they go out, they sleep together, they break up, they get back together in a funny sequence at the end, the audience falls asleep, etc.) Original beauty and it makes me hope that the rest of Hornby's books should also be adapted for the screen.
on February 3, 2002
My top 5 reasons as to why this is a must see film are as follows;
1)The story-The character played by John Cusack has reached his late 20's and he's just split up with his girlfriend of the past 2 years.He owns a 2nd hand record store and he's struggling to survive financially.His best frined are 2 fellow music loving eccentrics with whom he has this sort of love hate relationship.He knows he's coming to an age where he should maybe think of settling down and start making concrete plans for a secure future,yet he's been living in some sort of denial.It's the break up of this relationship that makes him suddenly question the way his life has been going.This is portrayed through the various scenes in the film but it's also totally original in the way that Cusack delivers this really funny yet at times pitiful narrative to the camera in a way that puts everything going on around him in a state of freeze-frame.He goes through the pain of trying to sort out his life during the course of the film.
2)Comedy-There are some really funny moments in the movie.The main character Cusack himself is a witty and yet comically pitiful figure.Even better are the two sidekicks he works with.They are musical snobs and the scenes in the record store are often hilarious as they deal with the less "musically-educated" customers who come to the store.One middle-aged customer who comes in to buy Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say..." is dealt with in the funniest put-down manner imaginable.The contrast between his two assistants is also a source of amusement.The cameos by Tim Robbins and Bruce Sprinsteen are also hilarious-especially Robbins who is a high-flying,world music loving,martial arts expert who also looks like some sort of new age hippy and worst of all he's living with Laura,Cusack's ex-girlfriend.The scene where he confronts Cusack in the record store is totall original and is also hilarious.
3)The Girlfriends-Cusack decides to give you a glimpse of his past life by telling us his worst 5 break ups in his life.Each one is so different and it goes from the time he was in 7th grade right up to current events.He tries to meet up with all these girls again to see if there's a pattern in to where he's going wrong-usually ending up in hilarious and unexpected consequences.
4)The Music-Well it's really good.As you'd expect from the owner of a 2nd hand record store it's not your average commercial stuff but a wide range of classics and alt from the 60's through to modern times.At one stage Cusack says "I'm going to now sell 5 copies of The Beta Bands 3 E.P's".As someone who often frequents record stores myself the scene was just so accurate as the customers hear this wonderful track for the first time and immediately go from just nodding their heads in rhtyhm to the music to enquiring as to who it is?Straight after the movie I dug out my own copy of the c.d. and started to play it again for the first time in years.
5)The top 5 lists-this was a particularly strong element in Nick Hornby's book from which the film is based.It's not only the variety of lists from funeral music,to break-up tracks-but it's also the way they are compiled,the useless trivia that precludes certain items,the arguments and dissing of other people's choices.It's the sort of useless arguments that many groups of guys of that age spend hours upon hours discussing.
All in all this is a really enjoyable movie.It's funny and it also has a "feel good" factor to it without being cringe inducing in a Forest Gump way.
on March 14, 2002
There is a moment in the movie when one of John Cusack's hilariously slacker employees visits his apartment and see's Cusak in the process of reorganizing his thousands of vinyl record albums. He's asks Cusack if the sort sequence will be chronological. Nope. "Not alphabetically?", as if this is too mundane. Nope, Cusack is going to arrange them autobiographically, meaning in the order that he acquired them. There was a time in my life when this this would have been a perfectly normal discussion, and I'm sure the character would have been able to accomplish the feat. I miss that part of my life.
This is a very realistic portrayal of people who live and breathe rock and roll. While I myself still keep in touch, it's unfortunately at arm's length while more the more pressing responsibilities of life take a higher priority. While some may think life has passed these characters by, they proudly stay right where they are, as if someone has to hold up the banner. They are even snobbish about it, and will not sell records to customers they don't consider "worthy". I find these admirable qualities.
With that as background, the Cusack character now finds that he may have to make that jump to the responsible world or lose yet another girlfriend that has made that jump. Being of the mentality where all music can be categorized into "Top 5" lists, he chooses five of his past relationships to explore what happened.
The fact that he throws a 7th grade, two-week relationship into the mix shows his maturity level outside his record passion may not be that high. He finds that, in several cases, he didn't realize at the time what a good thing he had, and it's his own fault he lost the girl. His struggles with this, and what to do with his current situation make this one of the most intelligent movies with a rock and roll setting ever made.
I was very satisfied with the ending. I believe his character will probably never abandon his lifestyle to the degree that I did. But then he's incredibly lucky to find someone that is willing to accept him for that lifestyle. Who that person turns out to be I won't reveal.
By the way, Jack Black's introduction to the general movie-going public is hilarious.
on August 13, 2001
1. Its portrayal of the musically obsessed. The best parts of the film revolve around music and the film successfully captures the collector�s mentality and his obsessions. All three of the guys that work at the record store eat, breathe and sleep music. I am not as obsessed as they are but damn close and I have never seen this mentality on screen. If you love music you will like this film is only for the way it attempts to make all of its viewers music lovers. It puts into action the feelings that revolve around music. It is nice to see that others make lists of everything. Warning: After seeing this film you may stay up half the night listening to records.
2. The humor. This is a hilarious movie and its comedy is quite fresh and is a different form of humor that is a pleasant juxtaposition to today�s gross-out and stupid humor. It is nice to see that there are alternatives. A few scenes really show the film�s interesting brand of humor such as when John Cusack�s character Rob imagines beating up his ex�s new boyfriend Ian and every scene with Jack Black is great. He steals every scene he is in and makes the film worth seeing for repeated viewings. Much of Rob�s little observances about life are also very amusing but at the same time they sure do say a lot.
3. The acting. John Cusack is great as Rob who narrates his life for us on screen. John Cusack portrays Rob so well that we as the audience feel his every pain and victory and can relate it to our own lives. It is a hard role to play due to the fact that that through most of the film he is talking to the camera and does not have the other actors to fall back on. He pulls it off nicely though. Of course Jack Black is great and his character perfectly captures the essence of the collector. When he corrects Dick for accidentally putting a �the� at the beginning of an album title he verbalizes the compulsive-obsessive disorder known as �collecting�. The guy who play Dick is also great (sorry, not sure of actor�s name) as is Tim Robbins as Ian.
4. The directing. Stephen Frears does an excellent job of putting Nick Hornby�s book on the screen. He directs in an understated, non-flashy way and that is exactly what the film needed. He does add enough gimmicks to keep the film interesting but for the most part he lets the actors carry the film and in this case that is an excellent move. He obviously trusted his actors and that was a good thing. The credit sequences are among the highlights of his directing and very few films have interesting credit sequences.
5. The music. Everything from The Velvet Underground to Stereolab is used in the film to a high level of success. Each song fits perfectly and provides a strong backbone to the film. It helps to make the viewer understand the musically obsessed frame of mind. Buy the soundtrack too. Some of the most effective song�s are Stevie Wonder�s �I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will be Forever)� and The Thirteenth Floor Elevator�s �You�re Gonna Miss Me�. Also it was nice to see The Beta Band get mentioned in such a flattering way.
So, a great film that all should see. I would give it four and a half stars for although it is great I reserve my five stars for true classics. This is close but not perfect. Still go see it.
on August 30, 2003
This movie is wonderful, but you won't find the good version of it on this DVD! Instead of giving you the entire movie, as it aired on many screens across the country, they give you an edited version. The clipped scenes are on the DVD as a "special" but you can't view them in context. This is an amazingly stupid thing to do. Why even include the scenes if you're not going to put them in context? We see "special editions" of all kinds of movies on DVD, many with scenes added that were never shown in the theatre. Why, oh why, would anyone butcher a great movie like this? The "best" chopped scene, by the way, is the one where John C goes to a lady's home to buy her separated husband's prized record collection. She just wants to dump the whole lot of very rare and expensive records for virtually nothing, just to punish her ex. It's a used record store owner's dream come true, and it's a great counter-point to the more depressing side of the story. Somebody PLEASE put out a DVD with the complete and unedited version of this movie!
on February 19, 2001
A man suddenly closer to middle age than to the carefree frivolous years of youth begins to understand the consequences of non-commitment in terms of his relationships with women, in "High Fidelity," directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack. When his girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle), leaves him for the guy upstairs in their apartment building, Rob Gordon (Cusack) begins to take stock of his life by reflecting upon the "top five break-ups" he's suffered over the years, seeking answers to the seeming pattern of rejection that has plagued him since Junior High School. As he does so, it establishes a thread that runs throughout the film through which some insight into Rob's (as well as some of the others) character is gleaned: "Top five" lists that reference music (Rob owns a specialty record store, specializing in "vinyl") based on category and sub-category, with his "break-ups" and finally "top five jobs," framing the story. Set in Chicago, with Rob's store in a neighborhood not especially conducive to "walk-in" trade, Frears sets a mood and atmosphere that conveys the freedom of a rock n' roll lifestyle and evokes the yearnings of youth on the threshold of discovering reality. Though Rob personifies an entire generation that has "been to the mountain," only to be faced with coming back down again, Frears takes something of a lighthearted approach to Rob's angst, with a brisk pace and by infusing enough subtle humor (though somewhat dark at times) into the proceedings to keep it lively and entertaining. There's a gritty, down-to-earth feel to the film, along with a sense of time and place with which anyone in the audience will be able to relate on a personal level, for this is the kind of territory, in one way or another, that most people have traversed; a vicarious route to self-discovery, if you will. John Cusack is perfectly cast as Rob, carrying his cloud of burden with wry, almost self-deprecating amusement. His naturally outgoing persona is just right for illuminating Rob's introspective thoughts, which he shares with the viewer by speaking directly into the camera, and it works exceptionally well, for it conveys a sense of being privy to a most intimate confidence. And Cusack lends something of a Nicolas Cage "hang-dog" look to Rob, which gives him a quirky, likable appeal. Hjejle gives a notable performance as well, as the woman in Rob's life who at last precipitates his life altering musings. The supporting cast includes Jack Black, who turns in an exuberant, memorable performance as Barry, one of Rob's employees with aspirations of becoming a rock star; and Todd Louiso, as Dick, Rob's other employee, whose stark contrast in personality to Barry makes him equally as memorable. Rounding out the supporting players are Lisa Bonet (Marie DeSalle), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Charlie), Joan Cusack (Liz), Tim Robbins (Ian), Lili Taylor (Sarah) and Natasha Gregson Wagner (Caroline). Cleverly written (screenplay by D.V. DeVincentis from the book by Nick Hornby) and well presented, "High Fidelity" succinctly captures a specific culture and a lifestyle of ambivalence invested with obsessions and eccentricities (Rob, for example, sorts his personal record collection "autobiographically"). It's an entertaining, funny and sometimes insightful look at life as we know it; a good story with plenty of music, some laughs, and engaging performances, which make this film more than worth seeing, especially for fans of John Cusack, and for anyone who wants some insight into the influence popular music has indeed made upon the world in which we live.
on November 10, 2000
I approached this movie with a certain trepedation. As a great fan of the Nick Hornby novel, I was somewhat concerned about the Americanisation of the novel.
How could I ever have doubted John Cusack and co!! The point is made well by Stephen Frears in his interview; moving the movie to Chicargo highlights the fact that its themes are universal.
We are taken inside the mind of Rob(John Cusack), a thirtysomething record store owner, undergoing a mini mid-life crisis. His girlfriend has left him for the new-age hippie neighbour (Tim Robbins). In an effort to understand why this has happened he takes the advice of "The Boss" and contacts his "all-time top five break-ups" to try to determine why they broke up with him.
Rob is not the perfect hero and his flaws are clearly shown to us. It is this which allows the viewer to identify with Rob in a way which certainly I have done with very few movie characters. He's a good guy who does stupid things, hurts the people he loves, acts selfishly but is ultimately likeable.
Rob's journey of self discovery is always anchored by his obsession with music and this music gives us a further insight into the mind of the main character.
Special mention must be made of the deleted scenes on the DVD version. A couple of these are particularly fine and would have added to the narrative. I can only think that there was a particularly vicious editing process to cut ten minutes off the running time.
The cast is truely outstanding, a real ensemble piece with particularly fine performances from Jack Black and Todd Luiso as Rob's stereotypical record shop snob employees ("I can't fire them. I hired them three days a week but they starting coming every day. That was three years ago!) Some of the scenes in the music shop are painfully funny.
But ultimatly it's Cusacks movie. He truly is one of the most talented actors in mainstream cinema today.
Besides any movie that can namecheck Belle & Sebastian and The Beta Band and features a cameo from Bruce Springsteen deserves an extra star!