Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is the thirty-something owner of Chicagoís Championship Vinyl, an indie record store with two eccentric employees (Jack Black, Todd Louiso) all three of who are prone to quizzing one another on their personal ĎTop Fiveí lists on a variety of topics. His girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) has just broken up with him, sending Rob on something of a tailspin forcing him to reassess his life and come to the realization that itís long past time for him to finally grow up.
Three years after the release of Grosse Pointe Blank, the creative team behind that cult success (namely writer/producer/star John Cusack and fellow writers Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis) reteamed for High Fidelity, an adaptation of the acclaimed book by Nick Hornby. Even though the team moved the action to Chicago, in order to retain some of the decidedly British flavorings of the source material they brought in Oscar-nominated director Stephen Frears, who handled Cusack brilliantly in The Grifters, to oversee the proceedings behind the camera. While the film doesnít quite reach the same stratospheric heights as the hitman romantic comedy that proceeded it, High Fidelity is still pretty darn terrific, the finished product filled with numerous indelible moments that feel as lived-in and as fresh as any a viewer could ever hope for.
The story is relatively simple, and it isnít like the final outcome is any sort of surprise. Itís the getting there that is so much fun, watching Rob evolve and change as things progress as he reassess his life (and past relationships) intimate and heartfelt. The whole thing is presented in a series of mini-vignettes charting the hours at the record star, the ups and downs of Robís romantic entanglements and where the still relatively young man wants to go as he looks into the future. Itís genuine, speaks to the heart, and as such end up being shockingly easy to relate to.
But there is a herky-jerky quality to it all that can feel a little disjointed, almost as if the filmmakers are presenting things in the same sort of ĎTop Fiveí listings Rob and his two employees are borderline obsessed with. It can feel a bit bumpy, shifts in tone and focus abound, and for first-time viewers getting through some parts of the midsection could prove to be semi problematic.
Hopefully not, though, as the movie itself is still incredibly strong, working on an innately emotional level just about everyone anywhere can relate to. Cusack and company have taken Honrbyís story and made it universally appealing yet also havenít stripped it of any of its somewhat narcissistic humanity. Darkness and light collide, all of it set to a sensational indie rock beat that fits things perfectly.
Cusack is once again perfect here, showing how strong and underrated an actor he truly is. There are showy moments for all of the costars (many of whom I havenít bothered to mention but all of whom are pretty terrific), Black in particular, but it is the headliner who stands tall above them all. His Rob isnít always likeable, isnít always worthy of our respect, and thatís just fine, the actor fully engaged and driven to give a multifaceted portrait speaking to who we are at our cores while also doing our best to hopefully become the person of our most fervent dreams.
In the end, High Fidelity has held up fantastically well, proving to be a down and dirty little drama full of angst, whimsy, romance and honest human emotion. As top fives go, there are plenty of them I could list where it comes to this particular enterprise, not the least of which are the reasons as to why this underrated gem is a movie a full dozen years after its original release is worthy of rediscovery.
High Fidelity is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with French Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here are ported over from previous DVD editions include:
∑ Conversations with Writer/Producer John Cusack
∑ Conversations with Director Stephen Frears
∑ Deleted Scenes
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer
The highlight, strangely, are the deleted scenes, providing glimpses to alternate directors Cusack and Frears could have taken the material had they so desired. At the same time, itís easy to see why much of this was excised, and for my part Iím perfectly happy with the movie as it is currently composed.
As for the ĎConversationsí featurettes, both are fine, no issues with either; I just wanted more.
High Fidelity is a strong motion picture and a more than solid adaptation of the Nick Hornby book. There are some hiccups here and there, and not all of it is as focused as Iíd like it to be, but overall Cusack and Frears have delivered a strong young adult drama that speaks realistically to the here, now and what is potentially to come.