Director: Stephen Frears
In this day and age, there hardly seems to ever be any moment in our lives when music isn’t playing. You can always hear a song in the background whether you’re out in a bar, driving your car, in a store… We listen to music to cheer up, mellow down, party on, get off, set the mood and so on. Most movies about music are about those who compose it, but “High Fidelity” focuses on those who listen to it and love it so obsessively that it takes over their life, as they spend countless hours making mix tapes and Top Five lists of, say, best side one, track one songs. John Cusack (who also co-wrote and co-produced the film) stars as Rob Gordon, a record store owner and part-time DJ whose girlfriend (Iben Hjejle) just dumped him for a Steve Seagal-ponytailed, pseudo-Zen neighbor (amusingly played by Tim Robbins). Rob starts wondering what went wrong, and he decides to go through his Top Five all-time most painful break-ups, from maniaco-depressive Lili Talor to glamorous bitch Catherine Zeta-Jones, hoping to learn from past mistakes.
Here’s a film that’s kinda like the Madonna discussion that opens Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” blown up to feature length, spiked with a touch of relationship blues à la “Say Anything” (which also featured John and sister Joan Cusack and Lili Taylor). British director Stephen Frears does a good job at adapting the cult Nick Hornby novel into a dynamic, free form picture which borrows a few storytelling tricks from Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” (notably how Cusack’s character talks directly to the camera) without losing its original flavor. The film is clever and witty, and very funny too. I love the pointless yet passionate discussions about pop culture between Cusack and his two employees, the loudly opinionated Barry (Jack Black) and the timid, geeky Dick (Todd Louiso). And then you have to love the soundtrack, which features everything from Bob Dylan to Belle & Sebastian, Marvin Gaye, The Beta Band and whatnot.
When I first saw the film, in the spring of 2000, I liked it quite a bit for all of the reasons mentioned above, but I concluded my original review by saying that I didn’t care that much about what the story was ultimately going for (getting out of arrested development, learning to commit, etc.). Of course I didn’t, I was a punk-ass kid who never had a serious relationship! Watching the film again years later (February 2008, to be precise), with my girlfriend laying in my arms, I “got” it infinitely more. Just as happened with Singles a while back, my own life has caught up to the movie and I now realize how truly insightful it is. I’ve gone through a long, dead-end period of working retail (mine was a video store, though), I’ve had all these relationships where I didn’t really commit or the other person was just wrong for me, and I’ve learned to appreciate the idea of settling down with someone who feels right. “High Fidelity” indeed.