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When his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) dumps him, Rob (John Cusack), the thirty-ish owner of a record store specialising in vinyl and driven by obsessive attention to pop detail, finds himself going through a crisis of self confidence. Laura was not the first to leave him. His half-staff (and half hangers-on) Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black), provide some distractions but unsure of what he wants out of life, Rob decides to look up the women from the five most significant relationships of his past to find out from each woman why they dumped him. But he gets a few pleasant surprises and Laura's lingering scent is in his soul. As he discovers, he has to make some big decisions himself if he wants relationships to work.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It has 57 songs credited, which should give you some idea of the importance of the soundtrack. As the title implies, High Fidelity is thematically driven by music; in other words, music matters to the characters, and music defines them in some way. After all, for much of this century, music has been an artform consumed by the masses, and each popular category has defined a generation.

Except of course pop music, which has defined several recent generations, in its variety of ways - some of which have ended up in this film as the social background to Rob Gordon's miserable love life.

Adapted from the novel with liberal, expansive wads of narrative given to John Cusack as a device to speak to us directly, High Fidelity obviously has 'a voice'. And it's a welcome voice; John Cusack delivers a completely normally paranoid young male whose self-comprehension drips but slowly from the tap of his insecure self. And he never grates or craves too much sympathy, while recognising our intelligence. Half of this is the script, but the other half is the performance.

While High Fidelity is a romantic comedy, it is the manner of its telling that sets it apart - and perhaps explains its appearance on festival lists. The oddly shaped triangle of the three central male characters (Rob, Dick, Barry) provides an amusement park in human variety where the evolutionary gene has been spliced from vinyl. And the failures of Rob's affairs are revealed in cleverly segmented episodes so we are forever in a sort of dramatic foreplay mood.

The tension is light but continuous, the observations that make people unique yet recognisable are effective, and it never slips into anything resembling schmaltz. And for me, perhaps its greatest achievement is the film's constant reminder of the importance of context. Everything is relative, as Albert once said, and relationships more so. A terrific script, zinging performances all round and Frears' inspired direction make High Fidelity high value cinema. It tells a lot about us people. Go and hear this movie.

The DVD offers conversations with writer/producer John Cusack and director Stephen Frears, plus nine deleted scenes.

Published July 8, 2004

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CAST: John Cusack, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sara Gilbert, Lili Taylor, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins - and Bruce Springsteen as himself.

DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears

SCRIPT: D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, Scott Rosenberg (based on the novel by Nick Hornby)

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; dolby digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer; conversations with John Cusack; Conversations with Stephen Frears; nine deleted scenes


DVD RELEASE: June 2004

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