After shouting the title of this movie for a year during volleyball matches, it's about time I got around to seeing it. High Fidelity felt like a sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. There are a few main reasons for that statement: Cusack broke the fourth wall constantly, the movie was set in Chicago, Cusack's lackadaisical attitude toward the future, his odd friends, etc. Since Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favorite films, it's a pretty safe bet to assume that I enjoyed High Fidelity.
I hadn't seen a John Cusack movie in far too long. While he does have a penchant for the over-dramatic, he's still a pretty cool actor. I liked him in Identity and Runaway Jury. In this movie (one of his most beloved performances from what I understand), he plays Rob Gordon, a record store owner who is jaded by a recent breakup. Rob speaks to the camera almost as often as he speaks to characters in the film, and in doing so makes you (the audience) feel more involved with his character and the events on screen than you would in an average comedy. Some girl with a name I can't pronounce plays the unintentionally annoying ex-girlfriend who is still the object of Rob's desire. I don't know what it is about her character, but there's something in the way that she talks that led Branz to dub her a "man-bear-pig." Jack Black has his breakout role as Barry, the record-store-employee-snob who embodies the typical Jables character. Joan Cusack pre-unites* with her School of Rock co-star (JB) as a mutual friend of Rob and Girlfriend McCan'tPronounce. Catherine Zeta-Jones does a fair job with a small role as another of Rob's failed relationship partners.
I think my favorite aspect of High Fidelity was the constant "top 5 lists" that were presented throughout the film. These lists (favorite concoctions of the main character) are compiled for things as ridiculous as "Top 5 Most Brutal Breakups" to "Top 5 Songs About Death" when Rob's ex's father dies. 15 Original Points also go to the High Fidelity screenwriters for coming up with the band names "The Kinky Wizards," "Sonic Death Monkey," and "Kathleen Turner Overdrive."
This movie is obviously a love story at its core. Rob's character development is one of the best in recent memory, partly because his feelings are so universal, and partly because he comes full circle by the end of the movie. The reason High Fidelity is so greatly appreciated as a cult classic is not only because of Bruce Springsteen's dream sequence cameo: it's because the characters are so well conceived. If you can't relate to the jaded Rob, then there is a slew of minor characters that I'm sure you can relate to instead.
I really do see this film as the closest thing Ferris Bueller will see to a sequel. It wouldn't be that far of a stretch to imagine Rob Gordon skipping school with Ferris and Cameron. Cusack does a fantastic job of keeping a certain childish nature to his character, holding on to his past and searching for clues from his failed relationships as reasoning for the failure of his current one. This self-consciousness differs from Ferris' unwavering confidence, but retains the same spirit of being a kid as long as possible. In Cusack's case, this comes from complaining to the viewing audience for most of the film, and using us as a vehicle to work out his emotions on screen. In Ferris' case, the asides are more of an opportunity to showcase his character and present his carefree feelings toward life. Rob Gordon is WAY more emo than Ferris would ever be, as evidenced by multiple scenes in High Fidelity where he is sitting in the rain, moping over his miserable life and his hapless streak of luck with women.
Slightly depressing but funny at the same time, this is one of those movies that you have to be in the right mood to appreciate. Give it a shot if you're looking for a hit of Jack Black and Nacho Libre just isn't cutting it, or if you're a closet Cusack fan and want to see one of his most famous performances. Until next time...
*I made up the term "pre-unites."
1. Pre-unite. v. Middle English, from Medieval Latin preunitus. The term "pre-unite" can be used to reference collaborations between actors/actresses in movies that were filmed before their most famous pairing.