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USA 2000
Directed by
Stephen Frears
109 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

High Fidelity

Synopsis: Rob (John Cusack) who owns a second-hand record store in Chicago, has been dumped by his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle). In order to heal his troubled mind he decides to contact the women from his past relationships in order to find out why they also left him.

The promotional hype for this movie makes much of the fact that it is adapted from an internationally best-selling novel by UK author, Nick Hornsby. Be that as it may, and I've not read the novel, though there are occasional puffs of verbal smoke, there is little here that would justify the cry of "fire". In fact, Frears has managed to deliver a likeable, neatly packaged Gen X romantic comedy, in which if time could be warped, a decade ago the leads would have been played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It is only the lifestyle, fashion and the music (how conveniently a record store provides a justification for an eclectic mish-mash of songs) that has changed. One is probably safe to assume that the edge of Hornsby's novel was dulled by the Atlantic crossing.

The central character is played by John Cusack who, like a latter-day Hanks, is very much Mr Average. And not a particualarly likeable one, if not downright irritating. Cusack is credited with a hand in producing, writing and choosing the music. Small wonder then that his character, Rob, is so often centre-stage. In fact this is like Rob's personal film diary in which he regularly breaks out of the narrative to comment directly to the camera on the passage of events. As Rob is self-preoccupied and shallow, one of the less appealing aspect of the film is that it is principally about him. Given his shortcomings there is little to learn of him or about any of the characters, despite the fact that the film is purportedly about a travail of self-discovery. Although his girlfriend, Laura, is regularly referred to by him as being more intelligent than he, she in fact remains a backdrop to his antics and ruminations (as do all the women in this very male-centred film). This may have been intended but that is no consolation.

Frears shows his competence although the top five lists and the rain scenes repeat themselves overmuch and the feelgood ending is somewhat cloying. There is however Jack Black's energetic performance as Barry, the overweight record geek, Danish actress Iben Hjejle, as Rob's girlfriend, whose fine-boned features provide the aesthetic high-point of the film, and Tim Robbins, who puts in an droll appearance as an aging middle-class hippy. This is a reasonably amusing film that has been seriously over-praised.




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