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High Fidelity (2000)

  Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: John Cusack, D.V. DeVincentis, Nick Hornby, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg
Starring: Jack Black, John Cusack, Iben Hjelje, Todd Louiso
Links: High Fidelity on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 8.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 35th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

High Fidelity (2000) is also mentioned in mino's review of About a Boy (2002) and em_fiction's review of Say Anything (1989).

"Top five films to enjoy with friends" - a review by pearly

High Fidelity is great. Really it is. I watched it for the second time recently, about five years after watching it for the first time when it came out, and I was expecting to find the whole thing mildly amusing yet a tad dated. But it wasn't. It was still hilarious, and still relevant. Plus, it's a love story, but its sop factor is ingeniously low, making it a romantic comedy that has just the right proportions of comedy and romance for my tastes.

As I said in my review of About a Boy (2002), I love the style and tone of Nick Hornby's work. His books / scripts are casual and witty, and they're very easy to relate to, because they're set in the here and now, and they have a certain feel to them which makes you feel comfy and snug whilst reading or watching them. High Fidelity is certainly no exception to this.

Set around a man approaching a time when he feels he needs to become a real adult, the story shows him delving into his past loves to try and figure out where his life has been going wrong. Rob (John Cusack) has just broken up with his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjelje), and this self-awareness journey is just what he needs. He is helped or hindered along the way by Barry (Jack Black) and Dick (Todd Louiso), the two employees of the record store that he owns.

All of the acting in the main roles for this film is spot-on, but there are a couple of exceptions in the smaller parts. Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played Charlie, one of Rob's former loves, was sometimes a bit excruciating to watch - I'll grant you that her character was meant to be irritating, but sometimes I am sure it was her I couldn't stand, and not the character. More disappointing, however, was Lisa Bonet, who did not go a very good job at all of convincing me that she was the super-cool indie rock goddess that her character was meant to be, and the kind of woman that every man would beat up their own grandmother to get to be near.

But onto the good. Cusack is, as always, brilliant, but he is eclipsed in this case by Black, an actor who it would appear really had this as one of his break-out roles, and who tried to copy it for the rest of his film career up until now, with varying degrees of success. I'm sure he had this film in the back of his mind when he was making School of Rock (2003) all those years later, and while that film was pretty funny, it would have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat this little gem to the comedy worms.

There are so many things that I love about this movie. It's the kind of film that you could watch many times and never tire of, and I'm particularly fond of the theme of lists that runs through it. There are lots of little sections of the film which make me smile just thinking about them. It's a film like this that really deserves the title of "cult classic".

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 10 Jun 2005

"Cusack's no Cu-suck" - a review by mino

OK, so John Cusack is a bit of a favourite of mine; I'll happily come right out and say it. He's clearly a great actor, and I doubt that many people could deny that (at least, I hope not). Comedy is his forté, obviously, but if you look back over his career, he covers quite a remarkable range: from an earnest journalist getting involved in things he doesn't understand (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)) to a deadbeat weirdo loser (Being John Malkovich (1999)), from a good guy in an action movie (Con Air (1997)) to a comedy hitman (Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)), and everything in between.

The remarkable thing about Cusack is how he manages to influence the films he's in. More than once has he dragged an otherwise awful film into semi-respectability. Even when he makes ludicrous pap — America's Sweethearts (2001) or Serendipity, for example — he still manages to impress, and come very close to redeeming a movie on his own. In those two examples he failed, sure, but by God, at least he tried.

High Fidelity is another of those movies where Cusack really impresses. He plays Rob Gordon, an indy record store owner who is, I think it's fair to say, rather unlucky in love. Rob is the kind of person who is very meticulous when it comes to the music that he loves so — he's continually making top five lists of songs, albums, and artists — but, unfortunately for him, the only lists he can make in his personal life are things like ‘my top five break-ups of all time’. We join Rob in the middle of yet another breakup, and follow him for a while as he tries to get his life back together.

Rob is ‘assisted’ on this quest (and I use the word very loosely) by his two store employees, the nervy Dick (Todd Louiso) and the ever-so-slightly aggressive Barry (Jack Black). Rob visits his old girlfriends to work out what's wrong with him, and chases after his last one, Laura (Iben Hjelje) rather more than is wise.

High Fidelity is a very funny movie, thanks mainly to razor-sharp writing, much of it carried over from the original novel (by Nick Hornby), and the great acting, particularly from the main trio of Rob, Dick, and Barry. Black, in particular, is great to watch in this role: when I first saw this movie, I'm not sure that I was really familiar with Black's work. When I started re-watching it recently, I was rather glum about the idea of having to watch Black in a movie, given that I'm kind of ‘over’ his schtick by now. However, within about five minutes, I had totally forgotten his ever-more-irritating career after this movie, and focused instead on the great job he does here, bouncing off ‘straight man’ Dick (you called, Mrs Slocombe?), providing a constant comic backdrop to the alternately flippant and morose Rob.

Cusack himself, though, is perfect. He manages to play both the wisecracking charmer that we know and love, and the pitiable loser we instantly feel sorry for, totally seamlessly, moving from one to other very deftly indeed. His performance alone would make High Fidelity well worth a watch: the other performances, and the great script, serve to make an already good movie even better.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 16 Jan 2003

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 8.50
Lowest rating: 8 (by mino)
Highest rating: 9 (by pearly)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. This film is totally on my Top 10 List.

    A comment from m1k3y ( on Sat 11 Jun 2005 15:46 #

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