High Fidelity

on March 31, 2000 by Wade Major
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   Capitalizing on their "Grosse Pointe Blank" success, actor John Cusack and his co-writing/co-producing partners Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis have turned their attentions to an even riskier proposition in adapting Nick Hornby's novel "High Fidelity." The result is a ruthlessly truthful and deviously smart comedy on the order of Cusack's earlier "Say Anything," to which "High Fidelity" could almost serve as a sequel.
   As one might gather from the titular double-entendre, the film analogizes music to relationships, centering on the romantic travails of a vintage vinyl junkie named Rob Gordon (Cusack), whose years of record collecting have led him to the inevitable point of owning his own store. The records, of course, are only an outward manifestation of Rob's persistent refusal to confront adulthood and romantic commitment. Through Ferris Bueller-style direct address, he brings the audience up to speed on his tattered history of relationships, the latest of which has bitten him the hardest. Laura ("Mifune's" Iben Hjejle), possibly his best chance yet at real love, has walked out on him, prompting a long overdue review of his faults and foibles. And there are many. By his own admission, Rob is selfish, lustful, bitter and opinionated--qualities which his two equally dysfunctional employees, downer introvert Dick (Todd Louiso) and militant rock purist Barry (Jack Black), refuse to let him forget. In an effort to make sense of his life, Rob revisits old girlfriends and flings, encountering uncomfortable truths about himself as well as reassuring discoveries about the power of forgiveness, redemption and love.
   Unlike the vast majority of so-called "relationship comedies," "High Fidelity" is unconcerned with punchlines, allowing its humor to emerge organically from the honesty of the characters. Director Stephen Frears, working with Cusack for the first time since "The Grifters," deserves the lion's share of credit here, eliciting performances that resonate with vulnerability without seeming convenient or contrived. The character of Rob Gordon, of course, treads familiar terrain for Cusack, and he commands the role with predictable aplomb, as does Danish-born newcomer Hjejle, whose convincing evocation of emotional uncertainty accounts for much of the film's romantic integrity. Longtime character actors Louiso and Black, however, emerge as the film's revelations, stealing nearly every scene in which they appear. Black's hilariously vitriolic rock snob Barry is especially impressive--a long overdue breakthrough role for a very deserving talent. Starring John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins and Lili Taylor. Directed by Stephen Frears. Written by D.V. DeVincentis & Steve Pink & John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg. Produced by Tim Bevan and Rudd Simmons. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated R for language and some sexuality. Running time: 114 min
Tags: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Lili Taylor, Directed by Stephen Frears, Written by D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg, Produced by Tim Bevan, Rudd Simmons, A Buena Vista release, Comedy, emotional, relationships, resonate, music, films, dysfunctional
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