High Fidelity


High noon. The Championship Vinyl staff (Cusack, Black and Louiso) confronts Laura's new boyfriend Ian (Robbins).
dir Stephen Frears
scr DV DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, Scott Rosenberg
with John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Lili Taylor, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Sara Gilbert, Bruce Springsteen
Touchstone 00/US 5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Based on Nick Hornby's bestseller, High Fidelity moves the action from North London to Chicago and yet holds onto the novel's tone and themes. But this is hardly a surprise, coming from the director of Dangerous Liaisons and the writing-producing gang behind Grosse Pointe Blank. Quite simply, this is a near-perfect film--a hilarious, insightful, clever, entertaining tale of male-female relationships ... and musical tastes.

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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fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favourites"This transferred well from London to the US - my concern had been that the very 'Englishness' of the book would mean that an American transplant would not work. I was wrong, though. This was a very funny, very clever film, with plenty of opportunities to say 'yes, that's EXACTLY what men/women are like!' There were some moments of very surreal humour - especially from the shop assistants, and the weirdy-beardy boyfriend - and a very humourous musical twist at the end. I had been really looking forward to seeing this film - and I wasn't disappointed. John Cusack was funny, engaging and painfully realistic. It was a real joy to watch." --Jo C, West Sussex

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall