ⓘ High Fidelity (film)


ⓘ High Fidelity (film)

High Fidelity is a 2000 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears. It stars John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, and Lisa Bonet. The film is based on the 1995 British novel of the same name by Nick Hornby, with the setting moved from London to Chicago and the name of the lead character changed.

After seeing the film, Hornby expressed his happiness with Cusacks performance, saying that "at times, it appears to be a film in which John Cusack reads my book."


1. Plot

Rob Gordon is a music-loving man with a poor understanding of women. After being dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Laura, he tries to understand how he failed in his relationships by seeking out his old partners.

By day, he works at his record store, Championship Vinyl, where customers drift through. He and his employees Dick and Barry, armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical, compile "Top 5" lists for every conceivable occasion, openly mock the tastes of their customers, and sell a few records.

Two shoplifting, skateboarding teenagers, Vince and Justin, are an annoyance to them until Rob listens to a recording that they made as The Kinky Wizards. He offers them a record deal, the first under his own label, Top 5 Records. During his off-hours, he pines for Laura and tries to win her back.

Lauras father, who liked Rob, dies. Rob attends his funeral with Laura. Shortly after the reception, Rob realizes he has always had one foot out of the door and never committed to her -- and in doing so, neglected his own future. They resume living together. He meets a music columnist and develops a crush, but wonders while making a mixtape for her if he would always be jumping from rock to rock.

Rob tells Laura that other women are just fantasies, Laura is reality, and he never tires of her. He proposes marriage; she thanks him for asking. She arranges for him to revisit his former love of dee-jaying. At the celebration of the newly released single by Vince and Justin, where Barrys band Sonic Death Monkey plays "Lets Get It On", Rob is surprised that Barrys band is not a disaster.

Rob makes a mixtape for Laura and feels he has finally learned how to make her happy.


2.1. Production Development

Nick Hornbys book was optioned by Disneys Touchstone Pictures in 1995, where it went into development for three years. Disney executive Joe Roth had a conversation with recording executive Kathy Nelson, who recommended John Cusack and his writing and producing partners D. V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink adapt the book. She had previously worked with them on Grosse Pointe Blank and felt that they had the right sensibilities for the material. According to Cusack, DeVincentis is the closest to the record-obsessive characters in the film, owning 1.000 vinyl records and thousands of CDs and tapes. They wrote a treatment that was immediately greenlit by Roth.


2.2. Production Screenplay

The writers decided to change the books setting from London to Chicago because they were more familiar with the city, and it also had a "great alternative music scene", according to Pink. Cusack said, "When I read the book I knew where everything was in Chicago. I knew where the American Rob went to school and dropped out, where he used to spin records. I knew two or three different record shops when I was growing up that had a Rob, a Dick and a Barry in them". Charlotte Tudor, of the films distributor, Buena Vista, said: "Chicago has the same feel as north London, there is a vibrant music scene, a lot of the action is set in smoky bars and, of course, there is the climate. But everyone, including Nick, felt that geography was not the central issue. It has a universal appeal". Scenes were filmed in the neighborhood of Wicker Park, and on the campus of Lane Tech High School.

Cusack found that the greatest challenge adapting the novel was pulling off Rob Gordons frequent breaking of the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience. The screenwriters did this to convey Robs inner confessional thoughts, and were influenced by a similar technique in the Michael Caine film, Alfie. Cusack rejected this approach because he thought that "thered just be too much of me." Once director Stephen Frears signed on to direct, he suggested using the technique and everyone agreed.

Cusack and the writers floated the idea that Rob could have a conversation with Bruce Springsteen in his head, inspired by a reference in Hornbys book where the narrator wishes he could handle his past girlfriends as well as Springsteen does in his song "Bobby Jean" on Born in the U.S.A. They never believed they would actually get the musician to appear in the film, but thought putting him in the script would make the studio excited about it. Cusack knew Springsteen socially, and called the musician up and pitched the idea. Springsteen asked for a copy of the script and subsequently agreed to do it.


2.3. Production Casting

Frears was at the Berlin International Film Festival and saw Mifunes Last Song, starring Iben Hjejle, realizing that he had found the female lead. Frears read Hornbys book and enjoyed it, but did not connect with the material because it was not about his generation. He accepted the job because he wanted to work with Cusack again after teaming on The Grifters and liked the idea of changing the setting from London to Chicago. The director was also responsible for insisting on keeping Jack Black on as Barry. Frears has said that many people from the studio came to watch his rushes.


3. Soundtrack

One of the challenges that the screenwriters faced was figuring out which songs would be used where in the film because Rob, Dick, and Barry "are such musical snobs," according to Cusack. He and his screenwriting partners listened to 2.000 songs and picked 70 song cues.


4. Reception

High Fidelity premiered at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. The post-party was held at the Sunset Room, where Tenacious D performed. The film was opened in a wide release on March 31, 2000, grossing $6.4 million during its opening weekend. It grossed $47.1 million worldwide, of which $27.3 million was from the US.


4.1. Reception Critical response

High Fidelity received positive reviews from critics and has a "Certified Fresh" score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The critical consensus states: "The deft hand of director Stephen Frears and strong performances by the ensemble cast combine to tell an entertaining story with a rock-solid soundtrack." The film has a score of 79 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "Watching High Fidelity, I had the feeling I could walk out of the theater and meet the same people on the street - and want to, which is an even higher compliment." In his review for the Washington Post, Desson Howe praised Jack Black as "a bundle of verbally ferocious energy. Frankly, whenever hes in the scene, he shoplifts this movie from Cusack." In his review for The New York Times, Stephen Holden praised Cusacks performance, writing, "a master at projecting easygoing camaraderie, he navigates the transitions with such an astonishing naturalness and fluency that youre almost unaware of them." USA Today did not give the film a positive review: "Lets be kind and just say High Fidelity doesnt quite belong beside Grosse Pointe Blank and The Sure Thing in Cusacks greatest hits collection. Its not that he isnt good. More like miscast." In his review for Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman gave the film a "B-" rating and wrote, "In High Fidelity, Robs music fixation is a signpost of his arrested adolescence; he needs to get past records to find true love. If the movie had a richer romantic spirit, he might have embraced both in one swooning gesture."

Peter Travers, in his review for Rolling Stone, wrote, "It hits all the laugh bases, from grins to guffaws. Cusack and his Chicago friends - D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink - have rewritten Scott Rosenbergs script to catch Hornbys spirit without losing the sick comic twists they gave 1997s Grosse Pointe Blank." In his review for The Observer, Philip French wrote, High Fidelity is an extraordinarily funny film, full of verbal and visual wit. And it is assembled with immense skill." Stephanie Zacharek, in her review for Salon.com, praised Iben Hjejles performance: "Hjejles Laura is supremely likable: Shes so matter-of-fact and grounded that its perfectly clear why shed become exasperated with a guy like Rob, who perpetually refuses to grow up, but you can also see how her patience and calm are exactly the things he needs."


4.2. Reception Legacy

Empire magazine readers voted High Fidelity the 446th greatest film in their "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" poll. It is also ranked #14 on Rotten Tomatoes 25 Best Romantic Comedies. In its June 2010 issue, Chicago magazine rated it #1 in a list of the top 40 movies ever filmed in Chicago. Russian-American alternative singer-songwriter Regina Spektor was watching this movie when she wrote her song "Fidelity", which is her most popular song to date and marked her first entry into the Billboard 100. Also in 2006, a musical based on the movie premiered on Broadway and ran for 13 performances. In 2010, Tanya Morgan member Donwill released the solo album Don Cusack In High Fidelity, which he recorded from the perspective of the films character.


5. Television series

In April 2018, ABC Signature Studios announced that it was developing a television series adaptation of High Fidelity with Midnight Radio. Rosenberg will return to script the series, which will feature a female lead in the Cusack role. The series was adapted by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka. In late September 2018, Zoe Kravitz was cast as the lead. The first season will consist of ten episodes.

Originally announced for Disneys then-upcoming streaming service Disney+, it was reported in April 2019 that the series had been shifted to Hulu. Disney+s SVP of content Agnes Chu stated that the series had "evolved" in a direction that was better-suited for Hulu.

On October 30, 2019, it was announced that the series will premiere on February 14, 2020.

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