July 2012

High FidelityA Tale of Vinyl and Requited Love Looking Sharp on Blu-ray

Touchstone 109815
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment

Picture Quality

Sound Quality


John Cusack has made many an awful movie tolerable by displaying a winning personality and contributing an impeccable performance. Hot Tub Time Machine comes to mind. But in 2000 he fronted this charming comedy and first-rate film as a most appealing leading man. Cusack plays Rob Gordon, the owner of a dingy, dirty, yet dynamic record shop. Rob is a likable guy, but he has trouble with women and relationships. Laura, girlfriend number six (Danish blonde Iben Hjejle), is in the process of breaking up with him to go live with Ian "Ray" Raymond (Tim Robbins with a pony tail!).

Throughout the movie, Rob talks directly to the audience about his first five romantic experiences, which are illustrated with hilarious flashbacks. All the while Rob is trying to get Laura back by figuring out what he did wrong, correcting it, and thus living happily ever after.

A subplot involves Championship Vinyl, Rob's record store in Chicago (Nick Hornby's novel, which the movie is based on, was set in London). A beacon of nostalgia, the shop is plastered with handbills and posters for famous musicians and albums, and there are rows and rows of wooden browser bins full of LPs. The scenes in the shop will make all vinyl lovers wish they could go there at once, and there are references to more albums than you can name in five minutes. The movie comments on music in our lives, and how we associate certain periods of living with specific titles. It asks whether music makes us what we are or vice versa, as we use it to navigate important moments in our lives.

Helping Rob in the store are Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black), two guys who showed up when the store was new and just kept coming back until they were hired. They show up every day, even though Rob pays them for only three days a week. Rob, Dick, and Barry make a very funny, inseparable, mismatched trio. Black is exceptionally zany in this earlier role, and he bounces off the walls much like a cartoon character. Louiso gets laughs too, though his role is less flashy.

High Fidelity has just about every kind of humor -- slapstick, satire, self deprecating, sly, and a lot more, and it works on every level. I laughed just as much this time around as I did watching the DVD some years ago.

But the Blu-ray allowed me to see everything more clearly. Shadow detail was great, and the contrast was perfect. Someone in production knew the truth, that this is an A film disguised as a B rom-com. You can see everything clearly in rainy scenes, of which are there are more than one, and I swear I could see some classic dust coming off those albums. The sounds are great, too -- they're mostly up front but rich, full bodied, and nicely detailed.

Extras include genial and informative interviews with Cusack and director Stephen Frears, backstage photos and footage, and a generous sampling of deleted scenes.

Be sure to watch for: The record shop first appears in chapter 3. The interior is dark, but as Rob flips the switches the lights beam down to reveal what many might call old records and dirt, but someone tired of shopping by mail, in spite of the good prices, would call Valhalla.

. . . Rad Bennett