High Fidelity (2000)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/15/02
Cast: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Tim Robbins, cameo by Bruce Springsteen

Finally, a romantic comedy for men, but I'm not sure if that's such a good thing. Rob Gordon (charismatic John Cusack) is your typical thirty-something Gen-X pop culture geek who just got dumped by his latest girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle). The film is an introspective look into all of Rob's failed relationships and why he's doomed to being a loser. He decides to face his demons and get the answers to his questions by getting in touch with all the girls in his top five worst breakups. As you might expect, this goes horribly, but Rob gains some valuable insight from it all. A very bitter and angry film, but it surprisingly has a sweet and sentimental ending as Rob finally moves past his neurotic adolescent perspective and decides to grow up, settle down, and make amends with Laura.

First of all, this film hits WAY too close to home to even be remotely funny. In fact, it's often physically painful to watch it. John Cusack gives a riveting and sympathic performance, even though his character is a jerk. He plays angry, bitter, jaded, and dejected to pure perfection. The supporting cast provides most of the entertainment, and the two characters that work at his record store create a wild and wacky dynamic. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rob's 80's rocker chick ex-girlfriend is totally to die for, and Rob's anxieties about dating such a smart and beautiful woman are painfully resonant. The narrative of the film is a bit quirky, as Rob is continually talking to the camera as if the audience were interviewing him for a documentary. We're privy to his most intimate thoughts, as if he were talking to himself or to his closest friend. The style creates a close and personal bond with Rob, and the constant shifting from active participant to passive observer works much better than I thought it would. The film is also notable for its soundtrack and all of the musical references that span the lives and personalities of the characters. Definitely a film aimed at the thirty-something male audience who would get all of the in-jokes, but people outside the demographic may still get something out of it.