Review: High Fidelity (2000)


A tremendous fourth wall movie set in my home town, Chicago!

Screenplay By: John Cusack, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink & Scott Rosenberg
Directed By: Stephen Frears

Movies as adept with their subject material as High Fidelity are a rarity. Even the best of movies often struggle with the material they want to get across. High Fidelity isn’t such a movie, it understands itself right from the start. It is witty, comedic and self-depreciating. Taking the fourth wall approach can be dicey, but as with Annie Hall it can be great when properly executed. You need a main character that is willing to be an island unto himself while at the same time instantly relate to the audience. You need to surround him with quirky characters that are an amalgamation of many different people that we know. There is no way these people really exist, but little parts of them exist in many people that we know, and High Fidelity brings these people and their insecurities and eccentricities to life. High Fidelity is an irreverent take on love, adulthood and life as we know it, and it tackles all of these issues with a brevity, sometimes not, that is refreshing.

John Cusack is an interesting actor. He has developed a reputation as the male romantic comedy lead, and that is why I believe High Fidelity is sometimes labeled as such. High Fidelity is not a romantic comedy. Thanks to the sublime performance of Mr. Cusack it is the story of a man finally growing up without losing his childlike outlook towards the world. There are many chances for Mr. Cusack to go overboard, to lose the character in a need to impart his own stamp on the project. But, he avoids those pitfalls and allows the character of Rob Gordon to be his own man and not just some romantic lead played by John Cusack.

Breaking into my world was Iben Hjejle as the weary Laura. She is a Danish actress who has rarely stepped outside the confines of her Danish domain. She brings a stoic solidarity to her role. Laura doesn’t want Rob to change, she just wants her life to be as complete as possible and for the man that she loves to be there with her. Frøken Hjejle does this all quietly, but there is great resonance in her performance and she is that normal, strong woman that we all know.

Rounding out the cast are the comedic performances of Todd Louiso as Dick and Jack Black as Barry. They are parts of people we know sewn together and they exist to show us that Rob isn’t that abnormal. He is eccentric, but he’s actually quite normal, he just needs to get over himself a teeny tiny bit. The cast combines with the part I love most about High Fidelity, it is Chicago. I was born and raised in Chicago, and the quirkiness found in the characters, the locales, everything about High Fidelity screams, “This is Chicago, and it is great.” Of course, I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.

Waxing poetic about High Fidelity is very easy to do because it is a very accessible movie. The themes, the story and the characters are all easy to relate to. The film is executed so that you fall in love with it right away, and if you are anything like me you never fall out of love.



Bill Thompson

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