50/50 Review #44: High Fidelity.

I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. I'd heard about how great it was endlessly for years, so it was hyped up quite a bit. But was that a good thing? The film follows Rob (John Cusack), a total asshole who owns/runs a record store with Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) and keeps failing in his relationships, yet can't figure out why. His latest break-up was with Laura (Iben Hjejle), who left him for a douche named Ian (Tim Robbins). Rob also likes to make Top 5 lists, so he recounts his Top 5 worst breakups and then revisits them to try and figure out what exactly is wrong with him. The film also co-stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Lili Taylor, and Sara Gilbert.

When the film started, I really wanted to like it. But John Cusack was making it really, really hard. His character was just so unlikeable (and, at times, loathsome). His sad-sack, oh woe is me attitude mixed with his music snobbery and general elitism wrapped in a shell of total asshattery made me almost shut down completely and, sadly, give up on the film. But at some point, and I'm honestly not exactly sure when (sometime in the first 25 minutes or so), it turned from annoying to strangely charming. I stopped wanting to smack the guy and started becoming hooked in to his personality and stories and lists. And I was so pulled into the film that, before I knew it, it was over. Like the main characters in a favorite film of mine--Attack the Block--Rob went from "Is this who I have to follow for the whole movie?" to "this guy is truly fascinating."

And there's no doubt about it that Rob is a total ass, but he does grow as a character and learn from his mistakes by the end. And the journey to that point is pretty entertaining. What I loved the most about the film is how inspiring it is. I'm not really all that knowledgable about music, so the majority of what they were talking about was like "Um... OK." But to me, the movie isn't about the music itself, but rather what the music represents. You can take "music" and substitute it with anything you love. The film is all about passion. Finding passion in what you want, whether that's a relationship, a job, or a side-gig. And coming from a guy who has found himself in a professional rut, as someone who has been trying to figure out what he really wants to do with his life, I found the passion presented in this film to be equally inspiring and personal.

On a more base level, the acting was well done. John Cusack was really believable in the role, and (of course) I did love all the meta, breaking-the-fourth-wall aspects of the film (which was basically the whole movie). Jack Black was incredibly entertaining in a very Jack Black role. He pretty much stole every scene he was in. And Tim Robbins was really funny, and I totally was not expecting him to pop up (that first fantasy sex scene where he's introduced had me going "Whoa! WTF? Haha." (Or something similar.) Though if I could make a trade, I'd cut out Joan Cusack (as I'm not really sure what her overall purpose in the film was) and add in more Todd Louiso, who definitely deserved more character development.

Overall, though, I did end up really liking it. I don't think it's perfect, but it is still really creative and entertaining. Perhaps if and when I watch it again, I'll get into it faster knowing I won't actually hate John Cusack the whole time. It's good stuff, and I really don't have much else to say about it... so I'll go ahead and stop there.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Yes, I thought about doing a "Top 5" list with this review, but I figured it's probably been done to death at this point.)


  1. Good call, and I think the exact right rating. This is a damned entertaining film. For me, the story is all about John Cusak's character growing up--he's in a state of arrested development for much of the film, but then he figures out how to be an adult. There's a metaphor in what he's doing at the end for the change he's gone through.

    I still want to start a band called Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

  2. Nick, I'm glad to hear that you ended up enjoying this movie. Like you say in the review, it's a great movie for fans who are passionate about anything, not just music. The book is even better, though this is a very good adaptation. I worked at a college radio station in the late '90s, so I'm very familiar with these types of guys too. Great stuff.

    1. I just kinda substituted movies with their music talk and was basically connected in with that.

  3. Maybe I need to give this film another shot. Like you, I had high hopes for it but found that Cusack's "sad-sack, oh woe is me attitude mixed with his music snobbery and general elitism wrapped in a shell of total asshattery made me almost shut down completely"... but I never came around.

    1. I did like that description of him that I came up with. :P

      I dunno... if you didn't come around the first time, there might not be anything to change your mind this time, unless it was something going on in your life that could have personally affected your emotions.


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