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Overall Rating
4.26

Awesome55%
Worth A Look: 27%
Average: 8.5%
Pretty Bad: 8.5%
Total Crap: 1%

15 reviews, 110 user ratings


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High Fidelity
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another Cusack classic."
5 stars

Nick Hornby's well-loved novel 'High Fidelity' is set in London, while the film version unfolds in Chicago; other than that, the movie is aptly named -- it's a faithful adaptation right down to the debates about Top Five records.

Reading the book, you can envision it without John Cusack; watching the film, you can't imagine it without him. Cusack meets Hornby's British self-consciousness with his own American brand, adding his Cusackian knack for romantic yearning. He plays guys that guys see themselves in and that women see their past or possible future boyfriends in, either fondly or hopefully.

Here he's Rob Gordon, an embittered, thirtysomething owner of a failing record shop. Obsessively cataloguing his vast personal record collection, just as obsessively chewing over his past botched relationships, Rob is a descendant of the Daniel Stern character in Diner, who freaked out when his wife shelved his singles out of order. Rob is a big believer in pop music as both the soundtrack for love and the influence on notions of love, and the film's selection of tunes -- mostly beautifully morose songs -- bears him out; even the uptempo numbers have names like "You're Gonna Miss Me" and "Cold Blooded Old Times."

Rob has just been dumped by longtime girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), a lawyer who's grown past him and is tired of waiting for him to catch up. Rob seems to have a better rapport (though often hostile) with his cronies at the shop, the effusive Barry (Jack Black) and the recessive Dick (Todd Louiso), both music geeks who seem to represent two extremes that Rob falls in the middle of. He's not quite as hardcore about music as they are; he's slowly growing out of it, but towards what, he's not sure yet. Still, he knows his tunes, as seen in one of many memorable scenes, when Rob spins a Beta Band disc in the shop and waits for the music to lure buyers.

While Rob tries haplessly to recapture Laura's heart -- part of which involves distracting her from pompous new flame Ian (old Cusack buddy Tim Robbins in a hilariously insufferable performance) -- Rob flashes back on his past disasters, talking directly to us, as if we were friends sitting in on his anguish; this gives the movie a slightly voyeuristic feel. Stephen Frears, who also directed Cusack in The Grifters ten years ago (impossible to think that hard-bitten noir came right on the heels of the gentle Say Anything), expertly creates Rob's cluttered milieu, a place where clarity gets lost in the nooks and crannies of disorganized apartments.

Cusack adapted the book with help from friends D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, as well as Scott Rosenberg. Though I'm not sure why it took four guys to transcribe a script almost verbatim from the novel, it's nice to see the three musketeers Cusack, DeVincentis, and Pink together again after their 1997 triumph Grosse Pointe Blank. Their new film has a radically different tone and rhythm -- it lacks GPB's dark edge, New Wave pulse, and rapid-fire exchange of quirky dialogue ("I'll go put these in some rubbing alcohol," said Minnie Driver when given flowers) -- but it's just as organically a Cusack film, with an accumulating gallery of pleasures.

Not to mention a rogue's gallery of bright supporting performances. Jack Black, of HBO's satirical show Tenacious D, grabs the movie as soon as he walks through the door; onscreen with the manic-depressive Cusack and the stammering Todd Louiso, he has more than enough wall space to bounce his noisy tirades off of. It must be said, also, that Rob has terrific taste in ex-girlfriends, who include Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor, both of whom make more vivid impressions in a minimum of screen time here than in the sad entirety of The Haunting. Unfortunately, Rob's early rapport with Laura (though she's smartly played by Iben Hjejle) is mainly hearsay; since most of the movie is post-breakup, we seldom see them enjoying each other's rhythms, the way Cusack and Minnie Driver (or for that matter, Cusack and Ione Skye) did.

Rob's connection with singer Marie de Salle (Lisa Bonet, giving a self-absorbed performance as a self-absorbed woman) is hardly better. Cusack and company have dropped the book's denouement in which Marie performs at the record shop, and they were right to -- it would have come off cheesy in a film. Still, it renders her character a little pointless. But it doesn't seem to matter much: the movie is more about the longing for love than about actual relationships. At times, Rob seems to take a page from Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: he's looking for the next ex-girlfriend.

Cusack makes movies for and about disenchanted Gen-X guys; usually, the Cusack hero has to unlearn some false mantra of self-definition -- in GPB it was "I don't think what a person does necessarily reflects who he is," and here it's "What really matters is what you like, not what you are like." High Fidelity follows the commitment-phobic Rob through his bumpy ride to some sort of contentment; the movie ends up saying nothing more remarkable than that the Robs of the world need a Laura to set them straight, but it feels right here, because what Rob yearns for is more than just a warm body in his bed. He needs meaning, structure, a reason to get up in the morning.

There's more to life than romance or pop music, but there's no reason you can't combine the two.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1354&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/03/07 14:28:40
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User Comments

7/22/14 guwdnei USA 5 stars
7/14/14 ryjzlfohq USA 3 stars
5/17/07 ES meh 2 stars
8/24/06 Joe One of my faves. Cusack's at the top of his game. Black and Luiso steal scene after scene. 5 stars
6/24/06 Orange Genius! 5 stars
12/12/05 Bad Critic The greatest movie about recoreds ever! (Ghost World's one too) They also had a Saab in it! 5 stars
10/13/05 millersxing It clearly helps that Cusack is such a blank slate that so many can identify w/ him. 4 stars
8/18/05 John Aster Habig Cusak can't live up to Todd Louiso's and Black's characters in interest 4 stars
8/17/05 ES A movie not worth making= funny stuff spoiled by trailer, nothing left for the film 2 stars
8/12/05 Kelly top five john cusack movie- 1.High Fidelity 2.Grosse Point Blank.... 5 stars
12/07/04 Jason Kaul One of my favs from John Cusack. Jack Black is great too. Then again, I'm a DJ, so I relate 4 stars
8/27/04 Mike Stanbridge Second best cuzack film ever 5 stars
8/22/04 Abbath Great characters and narrative. Something most anyone can relate to. 5 stars
7/27/04 DM Unstructured but mostly fucking hilarious 4 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva Rob is a low life who needs to get a life 3 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Great movie with a nice cast of actors, Check it out if you haven't seen it 4 stars
5/11/04 Denise Duspiva Need a more solid story 3 stars
5/09/04 Charlene Javier Bored, bored, bored! 2 stars
1/07/04 Charles Tatum Nicely acted and written, but runs ten minutes too long 4 stars
1/05/04 y2mckay Cusack, keep making movies like this and "Gross Point Blank". No more chick flicks! 5 stars
10/12/03 laura paterson Probably my favourite film of all time! 5 stars
9/21/03 spacecowboy for such a simple message, it didn't have to be that long 3 stars
4/07/03 Jack Sommersby Been down this road before, people -- even without the LPs! 2 stars
1/21/03 R.W. Welch Nice work by Cusack but unless you're a pop music geek much of the dialogue is obscure. 3 stars
12/22/02 Pigwidgeon Excellent movie with two flaws -- "Laura" and too much showy smoking. 5 stars
10/27/02 MarktheShark6 The diversity of characters was what made this movie great. I don't know about the end. 4 stars
10/03/02 Jason Cusack Shoots, HE SCORES, AGAIN!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/26/02 WestcoastPunk Non-stop Laughs. Funniest movie out there. 5 stars
8/14/02 MI I found it depressing- I think i may have laughed once. 2 stars
7/29/02 karen goldstein Anybody who has ever been dumped will enjoy this movie! Very entertaining. 4 stars
7/01/02 visionsof People who call this movie stupid need to learn to appreciate movies without a loud of cgi. 5 stars
5/26/02 Nicole If you like fairly dry humor, you will enjoy this movie 4 stars
4/28/02 radroc This movie is genuine, the real thing. A flick the acadamy awards could never appreciate 5 stars
4/04/02 cat John Cusack always plays the adorable loser to a T, Jack Black is hilarious, even Dick too 5 stars
4/03/02 Butterbean If you like butt plugs, you'll love this movie. Otherwise, see Chasing Amy 4 a better flick 2 stars
2/27/02 Jess I quite liked the film, it's real, but the book means so much more. 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver I just didn't find the movie very entertaining. Black made me chuckle. 2 stars
11/29/01 KMG People claim this movie is brilliant...THOSE PEOPLE ARE STUPID! 3 stars
9/03/01 svetlana the most human movie i've seen in a long long time 5 stars
8/29/01 Sarah John Cusack is animous with starring in movies that have no meaning & bored me to death 1 stars
7/06/01 Elvisfan Almost ruined by Black's immature jackoff routine, w/o him it would have been better 3 stars
5/21/01 hum see what can be done when a liitle effort is put into a comedy? 4 stars
5/04/01 joe This is Jack Black's movie. Cusack is annoying. Enough already! 4 stars
4/29/01 The Jedi Droid in my top 5 ....John Cusack is great! Jack Black cracked me up 5 stars
3/04/01 Zippo XxX One of the best movies i've seen!! should be studied!!! 5 stars
2/24/01 Marie Pretty boring whiny confused male movie. Generally entertaining. 3 stars
2/17/01 Jake a timeless gem. 5 stars
2/15/01 Charlie Betts Great Pop Classic... One For the Ages! 5 stars
2/06/01 Phil M. Afficianado <10% are "see againers"; this is. Gender Psych 401--grad school. CATscan of male love life. 5 stars
2/04/01 Del R Boorriinnngg! 2 stars
1/15/01 Gariess Best romantic comedy from an original novel. A tad on the glib side. 4 stars
11/27/00 Michael Maher intelligent approach to relationships, great use of pop music context and very funny 5 stars
10/17/00 Leon Trotsky Fantastic, BUT the end wasn't as carefully assembled as the rest 4 stars
10/05/00 Add Straight into my all time top 5 with a bullet, p.s. SONIC DEATH MONKEY RULE!!!!!! 5 stars
10/02/00 toneely Sorry Guys .but this movie bored me to death!!!! 2 stars
9/22/00 Monday Morning Easily among the Top 5 films I've seen this year. 4 stars
9/20/00 Michael Grimm rains a lot in Chicago, really hit home in my relationships, Cusack's character was creepy 4 stars
9/13/00 lina oh my my... brilliant film...john cusack rocks.. didnt want the film to end...totally rad . 5 stars
9/05/00 The Extreaminizer I love the book and the movie 5 stars
9/01/00 Pierce Lanson Terrific film, but he smoked too much 5 stars
8/21/00 Belinda Jack Black, where have you been hiding? 4 stars
8/18/00 matthew smith hilarious and painful 5 stars
7/31/00 Matthew Bartley A bit too long but very funny in parts 4 stars
7/31/00 Jason Kallelis Saw it a 2nd time, liked it even more, AWESOME MOVIE!! 5 stars
7/04/00 Matt Catherine Zeta-Jones in a GOOD movie??? 5 stars
6/13/00 chouck Another killer John Cusack film 5 stars
6/08/00 Jaime N. Christley Best Cusack film in years; funny, insightful, and highly enjoyable 5 stars
6/07/00 Patrick Dennis John Cusack is the man!!!!!!!! Plus, the diologue in the store is great... 5 stars
6/05/00 Blubberbot I enjoyed it for the most part but I didn't think the story was all that great. 4 stars
5/21/00 Jess This is an 80's film in the 00's. I loved it. Beautiful film, very funny at times. 5 stars
5/13/00 davebo an insightful, funny, original movie 5 stars
5/13/00 Dr. Rev. Krule, MD that is so me in 10 years 5 stars
5/12/00 Paige OK movie, nothing to write home about. 3 stars
5/10/00 Travis funny lines, good characters 4 stars
5/09/00 That Guy For everyone who ever made a tape for someone to express themselves... 5 stars
5/05/00 Alan Stuart Smart screenplay and good performances 4 stars
5/05/00 David Blumgart Funny, charming, affecting movie. 5 stars
5/03/00 Joe Smith Great characters 5 stars
5/03/00 Peter Smith Very funny, verry entertaining 5 stars
5/02/00 mop Great movie. Always been in love with Cusack. And they pretty much nailed music snobs... 5 stars
4/29/00 Heather Very funny original movie, interesting characters, well worth looking up 4 stars
4/26/00 astrotart Indiecool film where John Cusack is actually attractive..and Jack Black is a fucking RIOT!! 5 stars
4/26/00 PhilmPhreak Great Flick! 5 stars
4/21/00 Malbert Very interesting film...I liked it a lot 5 stars
4/19/00 Starry Knight Damn Damn Good 4 stars
4/15/00 PJ Great movie, Jack Black is funny as hell, and it was rather original, funny 4 stars
4/14/00 Mr. X enjoyable and insightful. if you haven't read the book, that is. 4 stars
4/14/00 Alyssa Another Cusack triumph. Makes you ponder if guys who *are* assholes are really pensive. 5 stars
4/11/00 Drano Actually went deeper than I expected. And stayed humorous 4 stars
4/10/00 Bueller Amazingly clever, and comic dialog. No one is better than John Cusak, at this kind of film. 5 stars
4/09/00 EMagGaRony john cusak is awesome, as always.... 5 stars
4/09/00 vroom The '80s came rushing back...where's my crimper 4 stars
4/08/00 burdenit Fucking Shit! 1 stars
4/08/00 Chartsy God, I love seeing a movie that kicks serious ass! 5 stars
4/07/00 Nolan Wrage Good insight on how men realy think. 5 stars
4/07/00 Katsat Original, quirky, funny, charming--just my kind of movie 5 stars
4/07/00 burton t. e. miller slow and predictable - supporting cast 'carried' the movie 2 stars
4/07/00 nootch The movie was pretty good, but without Cusack I don't think it could've survived. 4 stars
4/06/00 Freyja Forget chick flicks, this is THE date movie! 5 stars
4/06/00 kohawk true to life, spontaneous comedy. Extremely well written. Certainly better than average 5 stars
4/05/00 Captain Highcrime Not THAT funny. 3 stars
4/04/00 ChuckEye Tim Robbins gone horribly wrong 4 stars
4/03/00 Negative Again, Cusack delivers ! 5 stars
4/03/00 Gamma Great movie. See it for no other reason than a great John Cusack role. 5 stars
4/02/00 "Persnickety" well done john, he let the true world of dating come out to the surface, Bravo! 5 stars
4/02/00 mike b not too bad..could've used some trimming-jack black is the man! 4 stars
4/02/00 mason great book , slow directionless film full of very ugly people 2 stars
4/01/00 tjwills John Cusack is a god! This movie is just more proof! 5 stars
4/01/00 The Rock Movie was great! Jack Black rules 5 stars
3/31/00 Andi C. It was funny!! 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  31-Mar-2000

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-Aug-2000 (M)




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