Rob (Cusack) is a 30-something record shop owner with little ambition and even less of an idea how he got where he is. His girlfriend Laura (Hjeje) has just left him, forcing him to examine his past relationships to figure out why they all failed. Is there something wrong with him? Meanwhile, his shop employees are pretty much in the same boat, but at least they have a vague sense of direction as Barry (Black) is trying to start a band and Dick (Louiso) is falling for a girl (Gilbert) who's just like him. Rob, on the other hand, can't move on at all--well, maybe if he reorganises his vast record collection in biographical order....
Rob narrates the film straight-to-camera, a risky film device that works here due to a sharp, witty script and Cusack's remarkable, offhanded performance. Here (and in Being John Malkovich) he's finally shaking off his 20s and turning into a seriously good actor. Black and Louiso win in the scene-stealer sweepstakes in a dead heat--both are fantastic. And the film is jammed with engaging cameos from Robbins (as Laura's weirdy-beardy new man), Joan Cusack (Rob & Laura's straight-talking friend), Bonet (a soul singer), Wagner (a music journalist), Springsteen (as himself), and Zeta-Jones and Taylor as Rob's respectively flamboyant and pathetic exes. Frears handles everything perfectly, especially as the narrative leaps around in time and space to bring the strands of Rob's life into sharp focus. But it's Hornby's original concept that makes the film so wonderful, weaving Rob's musical obsessions and love for top 5 lists into an honest, meaningful, very funny look at the male ego.
[15--adult themes and situations, language] 7.Jun.00
US release 31.Mar.00; UK release 21.Jul.00
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