Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: "High Fidelity" is Endearing, Refreshing (Happy B'day, Nick Hornby)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 68 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

High Fidelity (2000)
Running time:  113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Stephen Frears
WRITERS:  D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg (based upon the book by Nick Hornby)
PRODUCERS:  Tim Bevan and Rudd Simmons
EDITOR:  Mick Audsley
COMPOSER:  Howard Shore
BAFTA Award nominee


Starring: John Cusack, Iben Hejejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Shannon Stillo, Joelle Carter, Lili Taylor, Alex Desert, and Bruce Springsteen

The subject of this movie review is High Fidelity, a 2000 comedy, drama, and romance from director Stephen Frears.  The film is based on the 1995 novel, High Fidelity, from author Nick Hornby.  High Fidelity focuses on a record store owner, who is a compulsive list maker, as he recounts his top five breakups, including the one that just occurred.

After seeing Identity, I decided to go back and see some John Cusack movies that I hadn’t seen.  I can call them “John Cusack movies” in the sense that Cusack’s personality pretty much dominates almost any film in which he stars.  He’s presence is simply quite dynamic and magnetic.  When he first came on the scene, many predicted that he’d be a huge star, and for some reason, his star isn’t as big as it should be.  However, few actors of his generation have a combination of tremendous acting talent and the sense about him that the camera loves.  Some have one or the other, but having both is rare.

In High Fidelity, John is Rob Gordon, owner of Championship Vinyl, a record store the specializes in collectible LP’s, emphasizing vinyl over compact disc, although the store does have a selection of hip and cool cd’s.  As the movie begins, his current girlfriend, Laura Lydon (Iben Hejejle) is leaving him.  So Rob, the film’s very dominate character and a compulsive list maker recounts his top five breakups, all the while trying to regain Laura’s companionship.

The film is based on a novel by Nick Hornby (the film About a Boy is also from one of his novels) and co-written by four writers including Cusack.  Although the film has a director with a pedigree, Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters), and a Hollywood hotshot as one of its screenwriters Scott Rosenberg (Con Air), this is John Cusack’s show.  In the beginning, the character Rob is a little hard to take.  It’s easy to see why he’d have problems with women, although Rob seems to think that his problems stem from his girlfriends.  Cusack builds Rob Gordon slowly, layer upon layer, before our eyes.  Rob talks a lot, and quite a bit of him is a mystery, but Cusack brings us in really close.  He totally breaks the mythical fourth wall between fictional character/performer and viewer, and though Rob remains something of an enigma, we learn enough about him to love him and to root for him.

There are quite a few interesting characters in the film that we don’t see more of because this is Rob’s show.  They might strengthen the story, but the storytelling is still excellent solely because of Cusack’s Rob.  Laura remains as elusive as Rob is, so we might need her version of High Fidelity to get her side of the relationship.

The film is funny, touching, and in its own quirky way, very romantic.  The supporting performances give Cusack’s Rob room to do his thing and give us enough to make Rob’s environment beyond his musings interesting.  High Fidelity could have been a disaster because in many ways, Rob ain’t going anywhere.  He doesn’t have any plans, and he is unsatisfied with his life, but not enough to do something – to act, so we could have brushed him off as a loser.  I didn’t because I want to hear every word he has to say.  Kudos to Cusack for making Rob so endearing and this film so refreshing.

7 of 10

2001 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (John Cusack)

2001 BAFTA Awards:  1 nominations:  “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg)

2001 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Lisa Bonet)

Updated:  Thursday, April 17, 2014

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