High Fidelity

The Skinny

Music junkie searches for the answer to overcoming failure in relationships with women

The Bottom Line

A near perfect adaptation of a highly entertaining and insightful novel

The Full Review

Having appeared in more than 40 films since the early 1980’s, John Cusack has quietly assembled one of the most prolific film careers of any actor today. Throughout his career, Cusack has demonstrated his versatility as an actor by working with such diverse directors as John Sayles, Woody Allen and Rob Reiner and by taking on roles that have ranged from a hapless con artist in The Grifters to a hit man with a conscience in Grosse Point Blank. But, what perhaps stands out most about Cusack’s film career has been his uncanny ability to effortlessly personify the lovesick everyman. In such films as Better Off Dead (1985), The Sure Thing (1985) and the now classic Say Anything (1989), Cusack established himself as the actor who can most adeptly capture the torment that average guys endure while fighting to establish or maintain a relationship with the women of their dreams.

Thankfully, the folks at Disney were smart enough to look to John Cusack to play the lead role in the film High Fidelity, which tells the story of a thirty-something music junkie who suffers somewhat of a “mid-life” crisis when his long-time girlfriend walks out on him. Interestingly, Cusack also co-wrote the film, which was adapted from the thoroughly amusing cult novel of the same name by Nick Hornby. While the screen adaptation does make one significant departure from the novel – the film relocates the setting from London to Chicago – the rest of the movie stays true to Hornby’s story.

Cusack plays Rob Gordon, a regular guy who owns a struggling music store called Championship Vinyl. Rob spends his days debating facts (and opinions) about pop music with his two employees, Dick, played by Todd Louiso and Barry, played by Jack Black (Cradle Will Rock, Enemy of the State, “Tenacious D”). After being walked out on by his long-time girlfriend Laura, played by Iben Hjejle, Rob seeks to overcome his despair by finding meaning in his past failed-relationships. Rob lets the audience in on this highly personal journey by frequently pausing to speak directly to them along the way. Not since Ferris Beuller befriended audiences and brought them along on his infamous day off has such the technique known as “breaking the fourth wall”worked so flawlessly in a film.

There are so many reasons to see High Fidelity, not the least of which is the wonderful acting displayed by the entire cast. As previously alluded to, Cusack excels in the role of Rob Gordon, as he produces a character that every guy can relate to on some level. Iben Hjejle is convincing as the discontented ex-girlfriend who has grown tired of waiting for her man to embrace adulthood. Lisa Bonet (Enemy of the State, Angel Heart, “The Cosby Show”) is perfectly cast in the role of indie singer-songwriter Marie DeSalle, a character who unfortunately receives too little screen time. Best of all, however, are Jack Black and Todd Louiso, who create the perfect pair in the hilariously obnoxious Barry and the oddly mild-mannered Dick. Black in particular nearly steals the show.

When considering whether or not to see High Fidelity, do not be misled by oversimplification of the story line. While the film does center on the relationship between a man and his ex-girlfriend, and you will no doubt found yourself laughing throughout the movie, High Fidelity is by no means a romantic comedy. This film has so much more to offer than such a label would imply. To suggest that High Fidelity is a mere romantic comedy would be an insult to both Nick Hornby and the team of writers who did such a terrific job adapting the story for the screen.


  • The film contains several highly welcome cameos
  • Barry offers up a highly amusing dance number to “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves
  • Many terrific lines worthy of being quoted for years to come
  • Some interesting “top five lists” offered up by Rob and his music-loving cohorts
  • The music, of course


Tim Robbins plays a goofy character that doesn’t quite work

Other Info

  • Nudity: None.
  • Violence: Very minimal.
  • Humor: Plenty