Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
The Challenge has been laid down.  Since me and my colleague Lisa have different tastes in movies we've decided that I give her something that's usually out of her purview, she gives me something that I normally would not watch, and we have to watch these films and comment on them.  But nothing too outrageous.  No Twilight for me, no Steven Seagal for her.  Today we are going back a few years and investigating Steven Frears 'High Fidelity', which really wasn't much of a challenge since it's been sitting in my virtual mental cue for a few years now.  That being said, not completely sure why this movie is so darned popular.

Rob (John Cusack) and Laura (Iben Hjejle) are breaking up.  Rob, for the life of him, really can't figure out why she's dumping him.  Chances are Laura is dumping Rob, pretty much by his own admission, because he is a mess.  Rob will narrate for us as he counts down his five worst breakups ranging from when he was twelve to the present day, but in-between that, and probably most importantly in relation to this movie, Rob runs a Chicago record store.  Classic vinyl. 

Assisting Rob in selling his vinyl, and providing this film with varying levels of buffoonery, are Barry the Abrasive (Jack Black) and Dick the Meek (Todd Luiso).  The store, and the music in the store are quite critical to the narrative in that almost everything in most everybody's life, somehow revolves around the music.

But Rob has stories to tell us about how and why he has become the way that he has become and how he has allowed this perfectly good woman to fade away into the ether.  Maybe it was Penny (Joelle Carter) who wouldn't let him taste it in high school, or perhaps it was Charlie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who was so far out of his league that he always felt she was going to leave him, until she left him.  What's truly amazing about Rob, despite the fact that he's not overly handsome, or particularly charming, or nice, or all that successful, and has hang ups for days… is that he has all of these amazing women that he cast to the side, or that cast him to the side, or that he spends the occasional night with.  Amazing.
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Will these crazy kids… Rob and Laura… find who they are and rekindle their love for each other?  Ummm… maybe.  It's hard to say.

For all intents and purposes, 'High Fidelity' is a fine film. Stephen Frears has been directing movies since before most of us were born, it is well acted by the entirety of the cast, especially John Cusack who effortlessly carried this movie on his tired, haggard shoulders, which isn't all that surprising since my man has made millions playing variations of this very same guy for years.  Jack Black is some kind of comic genius, Tim Robbins was killing me in his glorified cameo, we never get tired of looking at Lisa Bonet or Catherine Zeta-Jones and Iben Hjejle provided one of the more authentic Rom-Com heroines that the genre has seen.  That is if you consider 'High Fidelity' a Romantic Comedy.

So… as I watch 'High Fidelity', I'm thinking… what am I supposed feel here.  Am I supposed to have some kind of appreciation for Rob or affinity towards Rob?  Am I supposed to be rooting for Rob in some kind of way?  I ask this, because the truth of the matter is, Rob is not a very good person.  He's not really all that likable.  He's not the worst guy in the world, but he probably is the worst guy in this movie which makes him not all that easy to get behind.  Laura's no prize either, but we meet her post Rob and we know all of the things that happened between the two so we can't be too hard on her.  All things considered, one would think they'd have split apart a long time ago.

It is not lost one me that this could be the point of 'High Fidelity', something that might've been clearer had I read Nick Hornby's book on which this film is based.  Here is Rob… he's a real human being just like you and me… he's flawed… he has issues… now watch how terribly Rob deals with these issues.  We get that.  We can accept that.  But even with that knowledge it doesn't change my feelings towards him.  In lieu of the fact that Rob has not endeared me to him in this movie as a hero, cinematically speaking… I mean he's not Indian Jones, right?  I then attempted to relate to Rob's character… man to man.  Judge not lest ye yourself be judged.  Yeah… that didn't work either.  On a few aspects I could get with Rob, but on the majority… not really.  Then of course there was the music references of which I think I got about 40% of.  I do believe having a solid knowledge of the groups that these guys were talking about, and the songs they were referencing to, will also amp up your enjoyment of 'High Fidelity'. 

So there it is… I didn't particularly like Rob, I couldn't relate to Rob, if Rob and Laura get back together, or if they don't… I don't care.  I think at the end of the day I do want them together because at least it takes them off this fictional market and they won't inflict any damage upon anybody else.  Even though the Rob I got to know might not be able to make it through before screwing it up again.   Still… not too sure why so many people love this movie.
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