The Cusack Chronicles: High Fidelity (2000)
As we wind down the 90s period of John Cusack’s career, we hit an all-time crowd favorite. A person could absolutely despise Cusack as an actor (or even as a person) but they cannot (with any consistency) dislike this film. If you could name the second movie that women bring up when Cusack is in the conversation (#1 being Say Anything), it would be High Fidelity. I think, but hear me say that I don’t know, that women want to imagine their ex’s in this way. They want to think that at one point in that guy’s life they hit an existential barrier in their life (if not just love life) where they try to figure out what they have done wrong this whole time. And, to be honest, I think there may be some truth to this fantasy. Who doesn’t want to create a huge Top Five list of truly important and life-changing events in their lives. That is what this movie is about, well, that and music.
I will fully admit, and I am ashamed of this, I did not like this movie the first time I watched it. The second time I watched it, I didn’t dislike it, but there was still no connection there. This is the third time I have watched it. I must say, that though it is still not my favorite, that I am starting to get it. It is starting to make sense for me. Watch a few more times and it might make the Top Five Greatest John Cusack Movies, but right now…not so much. It is a great movie, with a great supporting cast and Cusack is damn good in it. Hell, it will probably make the top ten, but top five material it is not.
As I watched this film again, I recognized that I could pick out more of the music from the soundtrack than I could before, which means that I am gaining ground on my lifelong course in music appreciation. But I have this sneaking suspicion that, in the end, the movie itself does not equal the soundtrack that marks its minutes and seconds. The cynical part of me says that the reason why people love this film is because it plays like a solid and well-planned out mixtape. The characters are just the embodiment of the music and they are confined to be nothing more than that. Take the music away and I think this would be a largely forgettable film except to those eccentrics out there, mainly John Cusack fans.
Don’t get me wrong, there is merit in this film and Stephen Frears poured his large directing soul into it and it shows, but I ask myself and all the fans of this film: In the end, do you really remember the film or do you just remember the music? Do you remember the characters or do you just feel like going home and reorganizing your record collection autobiographically? Do you really connect with the existential angst of Rob Gordon or do you just want to go home and start making your own Top Five lists? High Fidelity is a tough film for me. I don’t necessarily like it, but I also don’t hate it and part of me kind of loves it, but, in the end, I ask: What came first, the music or the misery?