By Ray Schwetz
Top five reasons to see "High Fidelity" are as follows: One, this is the film adaption of the excellent cult novel "High Fidelity," by Nick Hornsby. Two, it represents the re-teaming of the writers that brought you the excellent hitman/eighties reunion/romantic comedy film, "Gross Pointe Blank." Three, John Cusack is in top form as the hopelessly adolescent vinyl snob Rob Gordon. Four, Jack Black is in top form as a hilarious record store clerk cum musician. Five, the music is sensational. Six, the supporting cast (Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Todd Louiso, Lili Taylor, Natasha Gregson-Wagner, and Catherine Zeta-Jones) is excellent. Wait, that's six. Oh, well.
Chicagos Rob Gordon (Cusack) may have found the right woman in Laura, but hes realized it too late. She's moved out into another man's apartment and secured a new job. To shield himself, Rob obsesses about his past failings in relationships. He tells the audience, in first person narrative, about his Top Five Most Painful Breakups. As a Championship Vinyl record store owner (and pop music obsessive), Rob also begins to categorize his own record collection in autobiographical order. He even seeks solace in a brief affair with a singer (Lisa Bonet). Before long, Rob realizes that he's made a mistake, and that he wants Laura back. But first, he must exorcise the demons of his past relationships.
I feel a definite kinship with Rob Gordon. While the film certainly (and refreshingly) does not make Rob out to be the perfect guy (aka Lloyd Dobbler of "Say Anything"), it does show that men are vulnerable, capable of screwing up, and capable of redemption. He's the imperfect guy most of us can all relate to.
Also, "High Fidelity," both film and book, perfectly captures how music can be autobiographical. For example, the song "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton, brings me back to my first dance with my wife on our wedding day. I also relate certain periods, or events, of my life with films. For example, on my fifteenth birthday I saw "Godzilla 1985" at the Park East Theatre (which is now a steakhouse) with my buddy Pete. The autobiographical nature of music, and the intimacy of the mix tape, is explored perfectly here.
Touchstone's DVD of "High Fidelity" is one of their better releases. The film is letterboxed at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are sharp and there appears to be little or no artifacting. The clarity of the 5.1 audio mix is very good, although there's not much rear channel or subwoofer activity.
There are some neat extras on this DVD. First, there are deleted scenes. Most of these contain footage of celebrity cameos (Ivan Rietman, Beverly D'Angelo), and they're all pretty funny. There's also another Jake Black scene and another Lisa Bonet scene. It's a shame the other celeb scenes were excised, as they would have worked well within the context of the film and made Bruce Springsteen's cameo seem a bit more natural (yes, the Boss himself shows up to give Rob a little advice). However, it's nice to see these scenes included here. Also included is the theatrical trailer and interview footage of Cusack and director Stephen Frears. The interview footage is interesting, but there's a lot of (warranted) back-patting going on.
All in all, this DVD is a must buy for fans of the film or the book. Personally, I think this is one of Y2K's best films. It's also one of John Cusack's best performances. Give it a spin.