The main character
Is annoying as all hell
Fuck you, Rob
Movies with annoying characters can be hard to watch, especially when those annoying characters spend most of the film bitching about how their life sucks and nobody likes them and nothing ever goes their way.
This is the basic structure of High Fidelity and surprisingly, I found it enjoyable.
Rob (John Cusack) does the House of Cards talk-to-the-viewer thing from start to finish. He’s a downtrodden loser who owns a vinyl shop with two eccentric partners, and he simply can’t find true love. He thinks it’s because the world hates him, or he has bad luck; in reality, he’s an annoying prick who can’t even go five minutes without driving his own mother nuts. Rob has a top-10 list for everything, and that includes his lovers. Throughout the film, he meets up with many of them and tries to find a reason for why they left him.
Do you ever have that feeling watching a movie where you just want to strangle a character for being so goddamn stupid and ignorant? THIS IS ONE OF THOSE MOVIES.
Rob cannot fathom why a girl wouldn’t want him. He believes this despite being spectacularly unaware of his over-possessive tendencies, self-centered ideologies, and troubling temper. Rob, my man, it’s so OBVIOUS why you can’t find a girl!
Luckily, he kind of figures it out at the end…I guess? And he ends up with his bonnie lass before launching into a final monologue that proves maybe he has actually learned something about love…I think?
There were so many instances where wanted to jump into the screen and yell, “Fuck you, Rob!” and then run off with his cadre of girlfriends and have a blast because I’m not deranged like him.
And yet, despite his many flaws, I liked the character. Rob is a complex character played wonderfully by Cusack, who honestly just seems like a dude who a movie executive picked off the street and said, “act.” Seriously, John Cusack is just some schlub, probably vasrsity jacket boy in bumfuck Nowheresville, USA during his senior year of high school, probably the spitting image of Rob in both manner and appearance at some point in his life, probably never expecting to be where he is now. He’s a pretty good actor, it works for him.
Music and wordplay
High Fidelity is about relationships and discovering oneself, but it is also about music. Rob runs a vinyl store, he occasionally DJs, he has a massive collection of records that he obsessively reorganizes, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and history. His business partners, Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black, at his Jack Black-iest), are similarly obsessed with the art of music. In many ways, High Fidelity is an homage to the power music has to bring people together and inspire engaging discourse and thought.
Which is where we find the wordplay. I love wordplay. I don’t listen to Eminem for his content, his content sucks now – I listen because no one strings words together with such dexterity and grace. Eminem’s wordplay gives me shivers. And when I finally dug into the title of this movie, I appreciated it even more.
Now, some of you know more than me (only some of you). But I had no idea what high fidelity was before I watched this. I knew what fidelity was, of course – faithfulness to a person or belief, etc etc. High fidelity is a different term altogether, meaning “the reproduction of sound with little distortion, giving a result very similar to the original.” I just find it great that a movie title can literally be used to encompass the two major themes of the film. I’m irrationally intrigued by this.
So how did I feel about the movie?
God, I needed this. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was just…the worst good movie I’ve ever seen, an opinion buoyed by my general exhaustion. To watch something like High Fidelity immediately afterwards was just…so refreshing.
The directorial style is engaging, the characters are three-dimensional, and the plot, while dull at times, chugs along and keeps your attention. This movie was different, something that I have reiterated constantly is very important to me. High Fidelity was a movie I could look at among my enumeration and point to as Not Like The Others. It joined films like Chasing Amy, Punch Drunk Love, Some Like it Hot, and When Harry Met Sally as the ones that spurn cliches and instead go for innovation.
I always feel guilty saying this, because I feel like the term “rom-com” inherently implies a campy, soupy, sappy romance with glittery movie posters and completely non-emotional plots. But you know what? I’ve learned that rom-coms can also be character studies, experiments in loquaciousness, and more. Sure, High Fidelity may not fit the formulaic definition of “rom-com” but maybe that’s just because it’s trying to be something more than that.
So yes, I really enjoyed this movie. The soundtrack, too. Let’s do more like this, OK?
Update on my mental state
I’m in a dark place with this challenge. It’s become very difficult to get the emotions flowing. I’m no longer looking forward to the next movie. In short, I’m falling apart. But then I was reminded of something very important.
I’m not only in the middle of the RomCom Challenge, I’m also on my last month of P90X, which is far more difficult. So last night, I decided to attack the last handful of movies with the same ferocity as I have my workouts. That doesn’t mean I’ll be abusing the screen (if you haven’t seen me do these workouts, it’s fearsome. I work so hard that I end up punching walls with adrenaline and yelling. Serious stuff, gotta get that pump). But it means I’ll be making no excuses, no missteps. I’m finishing this no matter what it takes, and then I’m starting something new once I’ve recovered. I hope to survive.
Girl power: There was one main female character in this (Laura, played by Iben Hjejle) and a bunch of supporting female characters. They were all great. Laura was maddening at times for her devotion to Rob (just get away from him!) even though everything worked out in the end. Her character was appealing because of her rationality, something that Rob was lacking. Most of Rob’s prior girlfriends are funny as well, especially when they basically tell him to fuck off and learn how to talk to females. It’s great.
Jack Black, playing Jack Black: I love School of Rock, which is the story of what would happen if Jack Black was a substitute teacher in an elementary school. Be Kind Rewind examines what would happen if Jack Black lived in an electric plant next to a VHS store. Kung Fu Panda is just the story of Jack Black if Jack Black were a talking panda. In High Fidelity, we meet the character that would emerge if Jack Black worked in a vinyl records shop. Does Jack Black just play a version of himself all the time? Why did Peter Jackson ever cast him in King Kong?
Sappiness Rating: 2/10. Not too much sappiness to be found here, save for the end. In fact, most of this movie is anti-sappiness, with Rob doing literally everything possible to screw up being chivalrous and approachable.
A very good entry on the Challenge docket. Good characters, great dialogue, beautiful cinematography and style, and a rockin’ soundtrack. Points off for being boring at times, and for the lack of true emotional resonance, but this was a much better than average rom-com.