Movie Review: High Fidelity (2000)

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Comedy
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Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is a grumpy record store owner, made all the more grumpy by the fact that his latest girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle) has left him.  Now, Rob is starting to take stock of his life, he’s ranking his five worst breakups, and what’s more he wants to meet his five exes, and see where things went wrong.  Rob never meets Allison Ashmore (Shannon Stillo) but talks to her mother and finds out that she married the second guy she kissed, which was the guy after Rob. Penny Hardwick (Joelle Carter) is Rob’s second girlfriend and a really nice girl, who Rob broke up with because she wouldn’t sleep with him in high school.  When Penny tells him that he destroyed her life, Rob strangely takes this in stride, and remains happy.  Rob eventually meets girlfriend number three, Charlie Nicholson (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He was intimidated by Charlie, but when they meet again, she is pompous and pretentious, and so it’s no big loss that she got away.  Rob’s fourth girlfriend, Sarah (Lilli Taylor) was coming off a bad relationship, and is now just off the deep end.  Then, there’s Laura.

Rob finally realizes that he had a good relationship with Laura, but by the time he comes to the realization, there are a number of obstacles in their way.  Laura has a new boyfriend named Ian (Tim Robbins).  At the same time he’s thinking of Laura, he’s sleeping with singer Marie De Salle (Lisa Bonet), who he has no intention of having a long term relationship with.  Rob’s also done some despicable things to Laura during the relationship, when Rob’s own sister, Liz, (Joan Cusack) hears Rob’s dark secrets, she comes to Laura’s aid.  But when Laura’s father dies, she calls Rob to come to the funeral.  Is there a chance for these two mismatched lovers?

Which came first, the music or the misery?  Now that may sounds like the beginning of a beginning of a long and depressing movie, but High Fidelity is actually a very funny movie.  I compare this movie to another Cusack movie, Say Anything, and this is a much better movie on all counts, a much better more realistic story about a self-absorbed guy who likes to pity himself for things that are essentially his fault.  High Fidelity is also a much funnier movie. The makers of this movie break the fourth wall and have Cusack talk directly to the camera.  If done badly, it fails miserably, but it works here, to great comic effect.   The Greek Chorus of Jack Black and Todd Louiso as a pair of musically hip snobs are hilarious.  Tim Robbins who was in the Sure Thing with Cusack is once again very funny as Laura’s ponytailed new age rebound boyfriend.  The scenes between Robbins and Cusack are worth the price of a rental in itself.  And surprise, Catherine Zeta Jones is very funny as a non-musical snob, who lives on her looks, and little else.   Lilli Taylor who was the funniest part of Say Anything has a few funny moments here.  To top off the enjoyment, the music is superb, a mix of soul and punk and everything in between.

High Fidelity.  High Comedy.

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