High Fidelity (2000)

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Top Five, All-Time things that surprised me about High Fidelity, (yes, I’m going to use this gimmick to write my article, I haven’t seen anyone else do it and I think it’s funny).

Number One- The film is much more recent than I thought it was, I had placed this movie in the late 80’s, early 90’s at the latest. I was off by a decade. This film’s release date was March 31, 2000. The movie being a lot more recent than I expected it to be means something beautiful for the film, which is that the characters are a lot older. This movie is about grownups, people who have steady jobs and own businesses, not young, recent college-grads trying to “figure their lives out.” The people in this movie have their lives figured out, they just don’t know how the relationships in their lives fit into that puzzle. In the case of John Cussack’s character Rob, a record store owner and lover of self-pity, he doesn’t even want to allow himself to think about that part of his future. As he says himself, he’s “always had one foot out the door.” Which is what hurts his relationship with longtime girlfriend Laura, played by Iben Hjejle. He hasn’t made a commitment, and she’s at the part of her life where she needs a commitment.

Number Two- Jack Black steals the show. As a long time fan of School of Rock, I know just how much energy Jack Black can bring to a film. And his specific talent was not wasted on this film. As record store employee Barry, Black is part of a two-person chorus that pushes Rob to try and: A) justify why he is a better person than they are, or B) become a better person than they are. The other half of the chorus is Dick, the lovable, awkward employee who just can’t stop talking, played by Tom Louiso.

Number Three-  Bruce Springsteen is in this movie. That’s all there is. He plays himself. It’s going to make your day.

Number Four- The use of fourth-wall breaking. The film opens with John Cussack speaking directly to the camera, telling us about his trials and tribulations in love, relaying to us his Top Five lists and sharing his perspective. This is some of the best fourth-wall breaking I’ve ever seen. Instead of hand-holding the audience through the picture, the fourth-wall breaking provided us a window into who Rob is, even though he thought he’d closed the drapes. It’s a brilliant use of the tool and

Number Five- I liked the ending. For the whole film I was convinced that I knew how the movie was going to come to a conclusion. Rob is a really thick guy. Over the course of the film, we realize the problems with his relationships before he starts to see the light, and we understand exactly what it is that caused the failure to these relationships that he places as him just having bad luck or being cursed with women. We scream at our screens waiting for him to wake up already! And that’s just a portion of the way into the film. So Rob’s fundamental problems, and we can make our middle-of-the-movie predictions about how the film is going to end, what the lesson our protagonist is going to learn will be, and how we think he’s going to learn it. I did this in the middle of the film, and then the movie surprised me. The movie ended with the message that I thought it was going to have, but in a completely different way. 20 minutes earlier I would have thought this was a cop-out, and then it is completely satisfying. That’s the ultimate surprise of High Fidelity. We think it’s going to be the same-old, same-old, and then it becomes something new. Just like Rob thought that his relationship with Laura was going to be the same-old, same-old, and then it became something completely different.

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