Top Five Faults of HIGH FIDELITY
The top five reasons why witty dialogue and another frenetic performance by John Cusack cannot save High Fidelity are:
- It contains too many repetitive scenes.
- The film’s editing causes confusion.
- Jack Black, lead singer for Tenacious D, doesn’t perform enough
- The "top five break-up" flashbacks are overdone.
- Cusack’s character talks to the audience too much.
While not a total dud, High Fidelity failed to engage me completely because of its self-absorbed lead character. This edgy romantic comedy, based on the novel by Nick Hornby, centers on the efforts of a failing record store owner (Cusack) to understand why he always gets dumped by his girlfriends. Explaining that his latest rejection doesn’t make it into his list of TOP FIVE BREAK-UPS, Cusack (Pushing Tin) proceeds to tell the audience about each of them --- and at LENGTH.
In scenes providing a welcome relief from our hero’s musings, his two quirky store clerks (Black and Todd Louiso) engage in very funny arguments about pop music. As unsung experts in the field, they are obsessed with creating their all-time favorite top-five lists of specific songs. And, they sometimes even drive customers away by insulting their musical tastes --- or lack thereof.
Interesting cameos by Catherine Zeta-Jones (Mask of Zorro) and Tim Robbins (Mission To Mars) also liven things up a bit. Zeta-Jones appears to relish her unsympathetic role as one of Cusack’s former girlfriends. Robbins gives an excellent tongue-in-cheek performance as a Steven Seagal wannabe who falls for Cusack’s current girlfriend (Iben Hjejle). But what happened to Joan Cusack (In and Out)? Usually a brilliant comic actress, she just goes through the motions here as Cusack’s cranky sister (type casting perhaps?).
One of the most entertaining things about High Fidelity is an impressive soundtrack that includes artists like Joan Jett, Elton John, Bow Wow Wow, Peter Frampton, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello, Queen, The Velvet Underground, Love, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan. It’s definitely a keeper for pop music lovers.
Does this uneven film have a message or a moral? Well, sort of. Director Stephen Frears (The Grifters) maintains that Cusack plays a complicated Everyman. Producer D. V. DeVincentis (Grosse Point Blank) adds, "The elements of the story are universal. . . It points out in a very funny way the obvious mistakes people make and the way they deal with, or more importantly, don’t deal with them." Cusack himself calls the movie " a kind of male confessional."
And that’s the problem here. Confessionals require more telling than showing, whereas films need eye-catching images. Clearly, High Fidelity would be a much better movie with shorter monologues and more stimulating cinematography.
(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "R" for language and sexuality.)