Droid defines the decades best movies – #19 High Fidelity (2000)

high fidelity poster “What came first, the music or the misery. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” 

And so begins ‘High Fidelity’, a movie so effortlessly entertaining and honest that you wonder why more movies aren’t like this.

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) has just been dumped again. His girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) has moved out telling him “you’re still the same guy you were when we met. And I’m not.” Translation being “I’m successful now and you’re still a loser with no ambition”. But Rob’s used to rejection. He immediately makes a Top 5 list of his most painful breakups, taunting her that she doesn’t even make the list. “If you really wanted to mess me up, you should’ve gotten to me earlier!”

high fidelity 1 Rob’s a pop culture geek. The focus of his obsession is music. He owns a vintage record store in Chicago, and spends all day making Top 5 lists with his two employees Barry (Jack Black) a loud, obnoxious know-it-all and Dick (Todd Louiso) a shy, quiet wallflower. Wallowing in self-pity, Rob decides to contact the girls on his Top 5 to find out just what’s wrong with him and why they chose to break up with him. He revisits his first kiss, the girl who wouldn’t put out, the dream girl and the rebound, all while harassing Laura into coming back to him, despite the fact that she has moved in with a ridiculous pony-tailed twat named Ian (Tim Robbins).

high fidelity 4 Based on the great Nick Hornby book, the story’s been transported from London to Chicago without any noticeable issues. The story and characters are so universal and recognisable that it could’ve been set on Mars and would’ve worked. I know people like this. I AM like this. What I particularly like about Rob is that although he’s a pretty decent guy, he can be a bit of a dick. Which makes him seem real, not some made up fantasy audience surrogate. The past girlfriends are so dead on that it’s scary, especially the dream girl, who is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in a pitch perfect performance.  You know someone like her.  The details might now be the same, but the movie uncannily captures the thoughts, feelings and emotions of re-evaluating your life after a break up.

high fidelity 3 Credit here must go to Cusack, who has adapted Hornby’s novel with D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and Scott Rosenberg. They have taken the unconventional approach and chosen to break the fourth wall, having Cusack talk directly to camera. This choice keeps the “voice” of the novel, and also allows them to lift large chunks of dialogue. It never feels forced and from the first moment Cusack turns and looks into camera, you go with it. Cusacks performance is great. In fact everyone’s performance is great, but the stand out is Jack Black as Barry. When he walks into the shop for the first time, he grabs the movie with both hands and throttles it. It’s a brilliant performance, and one which reminds me that Black actually is a good (and very funny) actor in the right role.

high fidelity 2 Director Stephen Frears is hugely underrated. He’s directed some great movies, including ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, ‘The Grifters’, and ‘The Hi-Lo Country’. In less talented hands, ‘High Fidelity’ could have been gimmicky and annoying, but he makes the fantasy cutaways (like one to Bruce Springsteen), the talking directly to camera, or the flashbacks, all feel like a natural part of the film. He has made a film that appears to be effortlessly relaxed and familiar. One that leaves you feeling great after it’s over. Not many films do that.

The soundtrack is filled with great music, both known and unknown to me. “I will now sell five copies of The Three EP’s by The Beta Band.” Yep, it is good. And when I first saw this, I didn’t know Black could sing, so when he does, it makes the surprising moment in the film that much more authentic.

high fidelity 5 ‘High Fidelity’ is a breath of fresh air in what isn’t exactly my favourite genre. Romantic comedies too often feel like mass market fairy tales that reaffirm the unhealthy illusion of romance. Sure, boy and girl end up together at the end, but it feels natural and realistic. The characters actually compromise, grow and evolve. And it’s a pleasure to watch them doing so.


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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

18 responses to “Droid defines the decades best movies – #19 High Fidelity (2000)”

  1. koutchboom says :

    I need to go back and watch this. I remember liking it. But man I thought it was from the 90s seems like ages ago since I’ve seen it.

  2. M. Blitz says :

    Awwww…..I’ve got a big ‘ol soft spot for this movie…

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    Excellent choice and that makes two in a row, are you feeling OK?

  4. jarv says :

    Fuck me. I actually considered this for my Dm for America.

    I loathe this film

    • Droid says :

      Fuck me. You continue to surprise me with your garbage taste!

    • M. Blitz says :


      • xiphos0311 says :

        Blitz I believe the cool kids in the unironically ironic T-shirts call it “H8ting” or being a “h8ter” or drinking the “H8ter Aid.” C’mon kid step your game up.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      How can you hate this movie, seriously how and why? It’s probably the best dude skewed rom com ever made I will watch it anytime I come across it on TV. Are you pissed that they changed the setting from London to Chicago?

  5. xiphos0311 says :

    I think I’m going to rent this movie right now and get some BBQ.

  6. jarv says :

    Because, like all Hornby characters, he is a vile, selfish, anally retentive cunt.

    I had a complete sympathy bypass for him and then after that the film collapsed.personally, I reckon that she would have been well within her rights to cut his cock off and beat him to death with it.

    And jack black is in it.

    I have only seen this once and that was on release.

  7. M. Blitz says :

    Eh, was he supposed to be sympathetic? I didn’t find him all that sympathetic but that doesn’t mean it’s not a decent movie. They did a good job of lovingly mocking the record collector spirit. Curmudgeonly assholes, with overdeveloped senses of taste and personal lives in total disarray. It’s the scenes in the record store that make the movie, in my opinion. Also, the obsessive list and tape making. The rest is, ya know, just silly movie-plot-stuff. I will concede that Cusack’s character takes the narcissism a bit far….but hey, selfish lack of maturity, it’s par for the course. There are several record store owners I’ve known who have closely matched this profile (they stood in horror of this film)…..only thing missing is the obligatory low-level booziness/pill-popping.

    Plus, the gal who plays the girlfriend is really good, and they cast Catherine Zeta Jones as a complete dipshit. Hurray!

  8. ThereWolf says :

    Good review of a good movie. I particularly liked the scene where he’s fantasising about twatting Tim Bobbins. And the bit with Jack Black when he goes – “Let’s see-eee-eee…” That doesn’t translate to words, it’s all in the delivery. Anyway, I got laughing at that and couldn’t stop. It’s embarrassing when that happens and no one knows what you’re still laughing at 10 minutes later.

    Interestingly, I was having a conversation in the pub a few years ago with a few mates and we got onto the question “What film best sums you up as a person?” I picked High Fidelity!

  9. ThereWolf says :

    Oh, that’s brilliant!

    Just noticed I typed Tim “Bobbins” instead of Robbins. The ‘B’ isn’t even near the ‘R’.

    I’m not correcting meself. It’s funny.

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