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"High Fidelity"

Directed by Stephen Frears ("The Grifters").
Written by D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg.
Starring John Cusack and Jack Black.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  4/17/00 


"High Fidelity" is the product of author Nick Hornby, some British guy that apparently is a pretty good storyteller.  Although the book is set in England, the movie decided to take some poetic license and change around the setting to Chicago, Illinois.  Ahh, Hollywood!  John Cusack and a few others decided to take a stab at the rewrite of the film, and Cusack brought in his old friend Stephen Frears, by all accounts a busy man since he did this plus the recent live TV movie "Fail Safe."  Frears directed Cusack in the cool flick "The Grifters," so I guess that was reason enough for Cusack to invite him to do this one.

I haven't read the book, but if it's anything like this movie, I don't think I would want to read it.  "High Fidelity" is about Rob Gordon (John Cusack), a late 20-something guy who seems to be going absolutely nowhere with his life.  He is the owner of a vintage record store in Chicago and he has got problems out the wazoo with women.  And somehow, he has let the best one to ever happen to him, a girl named Laura (Iben Hjejle), dump him because he is, in his own words, "a fucking asshole."  Rob seems to only have one true passion, his music, and he uses that as a way to categorize his feelings, his relationships, his answers to various situations in life, and a way to pass the time when he is name it.

Basically, Rob doesn't have a clue, and it is this that made this movie hard for me to watch.  There essentially is no plot.  We spend a large portion of the movie watching Rob move from woman to woman, and while he tells us he is learning from each blunder--told to us in first-person narration by the on-screen Cusack as Rob--I never really thought that he was learning.  Having no plot is okay, but getting behind Cusack's character--who tells the audience early on that he has cheated on Laura and basically was the reason for her abortion during their relationship--is tough, considering he has almost no morals.  I like John Cusack a lot, but his character's narration after a while got in the way, for me, of seeing the myriad of other characters that Frears has to offer the audience.  Cusack's best movie, for me, is still "Grosse Pointe Blank", and this role doesn't come as close as his disturbed hitman did in the other movie.  As Laura, I thought that Hjejle was pretty hot...unfortunately, her acting during the more emotional scenes between her and Cusack is piss fucking poor.  Her delivery of lines that should be sensitive comes off as so wooden as to be off-putting.

However, most of the other supporting cast members are very good.  Jack Black, as Rob's record store employee Barry, is the main highlight here, getting nearly all of the good lines and a funny performance near the end of the movie.  But, Tim Robbins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Springsteen, Sara Gilbert (apparently trying to look like Roseanne, since she did act on her show for so long...two words:  no more donuts Sara), Lili Taylor, and of course, Joan Cusack, are all good in their own little way.  And, for those that really know music--specifically, rock--there seemed to be a lot of cool insight that someone who knows that genre of music would get into.  Of course, only knowing about rap and disco music, I was left out in the cold for the ridiculous number of "top 5" lists that Rob and his record store cronies are talking about during this movie.

And, I must admit that some of Rob's dating dilemmas ring true for myself and other guys, so that was interesting to's good to see that all guys get trikked every so often like I did back in the old days.  But, overall, I didn't really get into this movie and it was simply 30 minutes too long.  A comedy-drama like this shouldn't have felt as long as it did, and I found myself looking at my watch as the movie lumbered to a close.  Also, try and stay through the first 10 minutes, because this is some of the worst "comedy" of the year and it caused two couples in my theater to walk out.  If you give it a chance, it still might entertain you.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09