Rob runs a record store, as in vinyl not CDs. He has two staff, one a mopey withdrawn emo-type named Dick who would like it if you agreed with him but y’know, no pressure. The other a brusque and loud 100% music snob Barry (Jack Black) who knows better than everyone else, including customers. Especially customers.
Rob is in between, he loves his music but seems to respect everyone else’s right to like what they like even if he doesn’t agree. He seems a low key music snob. Rob’s business remains afloat only through the continued business of similar music snobs of varied levels who go out of their way to shop there.
The trio often share mixtapes and make impromptu music related lists with such titles as “Best Side 1, Track 1s” or I would guess “Best revenge songs”.
This is not what the film is about. This is merely a description of Rob and his two staff and the goings on in his record shop called Championship Vinyl.
This is actually the part of the film I like best because it is the bit I identify with most.
In my 20s I was the loud and obnoxious music (and movie) snob. I knew better than you (still do) and was more than happy to prove it. Mixtapes were my specialty, and if we were going for a drive of more than 15 minutes I would make sure that I had a tape or CD of my own, as I could not stomach listening to the radio or someone else’s crappy music that was invariably nowhere near as good as mine.
Now in my 30s I am probably more like Rob. I still think I know better, can still prove it on demand (my last “mixtape” – now Mix-CD was done a couple months ago), but I am happy to let others like what they like, admittedly behind a visage of well concealed disgust. I don’t think I have it in me to be the withdrawn “each to their own” guy.
And don’t think that the correlation between me and the guys in this movie hasn’t been pointed out before, many, many times.
That’s only the backdrop though. High Fidelity is actually about Rob (who I need to mention somewhere is played by John Cusack so there you go), and his relationship with Laura.
Near the start of the film Laura dumps Rob unceremoniously, and due to the long term and intertwined nature of their relationship they remain in reasonable proximity.
Close enough to give each other the shits and allows themselves to get wound up over nothing. Laura moves on, Rob stays and mopes, using music as his coping mechanism. He starts by reorganising his vast personal collection in different orders (personal CHECK!), not alphabetically or oldest to newest, but in order of purchase. He then lists the best breakup songs followed by his own personal Top 5 breakups from his past.
Rob ultimately decides he must revisit these Top 5 breakup women personally to gain some form of closure. What results is a Schneider-lite version of the various wacky things that must ensue in film when you have a montage of different people, only without the obscure and pointless disorders that Schneider films (and Seinfeld episodes) demanded.
Some meetings go well, others not so much.
Later on Rob breaks the ice and hooks up with a local 27kg singer-songwriter played by Lisa Bonet, while Laura has moved in with her new man who not so conveniently lives in the floor above Rob’s apartment. The best part being that the new lothario is played by an over-the-top Tim Robbins at his greasiest and most faux-sincere.
Things get complicated as they must when Laura’s situation changes once more only in more dramatic circumstances than a mere break up.
Like Knocked Up that was basically a “rom-com that guys could watch without vomiting” by including heaps of potty talk and dumb guy antics, High Fidelity is at the core another rom-com.
Knocked Up went: Hook up / Break up / Make up.
High Fidelity goes: Already together / Break up / ?.
And no you don’t need to be a genius to finish the equation.
High Fidelity justifies its existence through the inclusion of much guy banter with a keen eye on the role music plays as (guys) mature and move through life.
If you are a guy and have no idea what that sentence above means, then this is merely a rom-com for you. Stay away.
John Cusack is John Cusack, reliable, sensible and convincing. Like an old warm jumper you know what you’re gonna get, and you like it.
Jack Black steals the show in a role that he played before he morphed into “Funnyman Jack Black”. (If I ever had the good fortune to run my own music shop I would go broke in 10 minutes as I would refuse to sell mainstream crap and would forever be pushing obscure CDs that no-one else would want to listen to but me. That is why JB’s Barry is an employee, he would similarly fail if running the show.)
Tim Robbins is hilarious in his bit part and Iben Hjelje is convincing in the confused and undecided Laura, especially when things turn and she momentarily loses her way.
And Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas is actually vaguely likable and dare I say it attractive for a nanosecond despite being one of the more loathsome creatures on the planet.
High Fidelity is a movie for music-snobs or people that at least partially identify with the obsessive nature of collectors or “fan-dom”. I think if you are a go with the flow sort of person not much of this will ring true and you’ll be left with a run of the mill rom-com.
I like High Fidelity, but I no longer identify with it quite as much as I did 10 years ago.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. A solid film that will mean more to those that lived the life of Rob, Barry or even Dick.