John Cusack's High Fidelity makes heartbreak look (and sound) great.
Thursday, April 6, 2000
John Cusack is a wily devil. It isn''t enough that he''s been drinking from the fountain of youth since the last time he worked with British director Stephen Frears on The Grifters in 1990, with Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston, but the 34-year-old man/boy actor has cornered a cool piece of the film market with a confident brand of spry urban ingenuity. Ironically, his many past roles, from Say Anything to Being John Malkovich, seem to have all been leading to his humorous and fully realized portrait of a self-defeating, hopelessly romantic record collector named Rob Gordon, in Frears'' screen version of the Nick Hornby novel High Fidelity. Cusack seamlessly glides between fourth-wall breaking, docu-style exposition, flashbacks, and in-the-moment experiences to expose manifold layers of male romantic mentality.
"Some things you never get used to, even though you''re feeling like another man," a line taken from Elvis Costello''s song "High Fidelity" on his 1980 album, Get Happy, underscores the kind of post-modern angst that Rob suffers in his relationships with women. Is the singer speaking to a soon-to-be ex-lover about wanting someone new, or is he testing his own subjective experience after the break-up has already occurred? Rob views his past relationships much like his favorite songs, through a filter of "top five" lists that his recent romantic failure with Laura (Iben Hjejle) doesn''t rate in his list of "Top Five Most Memorable Break-Ups." Each affair had its own charms (as is revealed in soul-searching flashbacks), but always within a recurring motif of self-perceived rejection that Rob seeks to undo by revisiting a few of his past girlfriends and questioning them about their reasons for giving him the boot.
While Rob might seem, on first take, to be a case of narcissistic arrested-development, he''s actually an above average guy with a job that falls within (even if it''s at the bottom) his top five choices for employment. He''s one of those rare human animals who really cares enough about his intimate relations to go the distance in attempting to not repeat past mistakes. If his methods seem silly at first, by midway in the movie, the audience is allowed to come around to seeing beneath Rob''s childish façade. The movie''s finest gift is that it lets the audience embrace the whole of Rob''s idiosyncratic character and uncover, with him, the germ of love that so desperately longs to breed.
Between Cusack''s work on co-writing the script for High Fidelity, and his priceless performance as Rob lies the rock ''n'' roll heart and soul of a guy audiences deserve to stand in line for.
High Fidelity... (* * * *)
Starring: John Cusack, Lisa Bonet, Beverly D''Angelo, Joan Cusack, Iben Hjejle
Where: Century Park 7, Monterey State Theater
When: See Movie Times