High Fidelity

Top Five dream jobs? According to the diary of music freak Rob Gordon (John Cusack) in High Fidelity, here's Number One: "Journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, 1976-1979. Get to meet the Clash, Chrissie Hynde, Sex Pistols, David Byrne. Get tons of free records." Rob was born too late to fulfill his dream. Instead he opened a music store in Chicago, Championship Vinyl, that specializes in LPs. Rob is thirty-something now, and his girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle), has just dumped him for living his obsessions. "That's cold shit," says Rob. If you've been on either side of that argument, High Fidelity, based on Nick Hornby's painfully hilarious 1995 novel, will get you making your own lists.


Top Five reasons not to worry so much that the movie shifts the book's location from Eighties London to Y2K Chicago:
1. It's still about a record store, and don't you miss vinyl even more now?
2. It's still about Rob Gordon, a guy who ranks his music above his women.
3. Americans are just as obsessed with Top Five music lists as Brits.
4. American geek boys are just as fucked up about women as Brit geek boys, and that goes for any decade.
5. It's a good movie.

Top Five qualities that make High Fidelity a good movie:
1. It hits all the laugh bases, from grins to guffaws. Cusack and his Chicago friends — D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink — have rewritten Scott Rosenberg's script to catch Hornby's spirit without losing the sick comic twists they gave 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank.
2. The music kicks ass and keeps on kicking. Rob floods his store with sounds, from the Clash to Beta Band, from his gargantuan collection of LPs.
3. The women are definite hotties, starting with Hjejle. Lili Taylor, Lisa Bonet, Joelle Carter and Natasha Gregson Wagner make vivid impressions. And get a load of Catherine Zeta-Jones as the killer babe who leaves Rob for a megadork, hilariously caricatured by Cusack's real-life pal Tim Robbins. The priceless Joan Cusack, John's sister, contributes a scene-stealing cameo.
4. Stephen Frears directs. Excellent choice — he's a Brit who knows how to navigate the sexual byways of England (My Beautiful Laundrette) and America (The Grifters, in which Cusack starred).
5. All the pieces hang together. You can't say that about many movies.

Top Five MVPs in High Fidelity:
1. Cusack. He's note-perfect as this obsessive commitmentphobe. You can practically see him fire up while searching his memory for his desert-island, all-time, Top Five split-ups and the songs that went with them. Think "I Hate You (But Call Me)," by the Monks.
2. Jack Black. He spins comic bile as Barry, the loudmouth who works in Rob's store and insults any ass-muncher customer who doesn't share his musical taste.
3. Todd Louiso. He's a sweet joy as Dick, the shy-guy clerk.
4. Hjejle. The Danish actress anchors the film in emotional reality.
5. Hornby. No Nick, no movie.

Top Five things that make High Fidelity not so perfect:
1. It's talky. Rob often stares directly at the camera and just lets the words pour out. Good words, but . . .
2. It's whiny. I mean, how long can you listen to Rob complain?
3. It sags in the middle, when you realize the plot's not going anywhere.
4. It bashes women more than men.
5. It's still a pain that the movie is set in Chicago instead of London. Sorry.

Top Five reasons that the imperfections in High Fidelity don't matter:
1. You're still smiling when the film is over. So why go on with the list?

From The Archives Issue 452: July 18, 1985