High Fidelity (2000)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Manners, Romantic Comedy, Urban Comedy, Workplace Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 31, 2000 (USA)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Mark Deming

At face value, High Fidelity looks like a movie about the girl troubles of a 30-something record collector obsessing over his most recent breakup, but just below the surface is a witty but knowing story about a man slowly waking up to the fact that he's been emotionally stuck in adolescence and realizes it's time to start acting like an adult (which means accepting the knowledge that there's more to know about his partner than what records she likes). Nick Hornby's original novel was a clever, slyly intelligent book about people whose lives have been both shaped and reflected by popular culture, and director Stephen Frears and producer/co-screenwriter/leading man John Cusack have more than honored their source material. While one doesn't have to be a music buff to enjoy the movie, they've packed the film with enough knowing musical references to satisfy even the most jaded hipster; anyone who has spent much time in a used record store will feel right at home at Rob's shop, Championship Vinyl. And though Cusack's performance -- funny and charming but with enough bile to give him a few sharp edges -- dominates the film, Frears is more than generous with the supporting cast, especially Jack Black and Todd Louiso, who, as Barry and Dick, hilariously play id and superego to Rob's barely contained middle ground. Tim Robbins delivers a brief but superb turn as the annoyingly even-tempered Ian, and Iben Hjejle is engaging as Laura, who seems almost too sensible to be living with Rob (though we can certainly see why he wants her around). If High Fidelity sometimes seems to tell viewers more than they might want to know about the obsessions of its characters, Frears and Cusack have also given Rob just enough depth that he seems genuine and believable, and there's a lot to be learned from his struggles with romance and maturity -- even if you don't know (or care) how much a French pressing of Captain Beefheart's Safe As Milk fetches these days.