I can’t remember the first time I saw High Fidelity. Whenever it was, the impact that it had on me still rings true. It might have been because of my mother. She loved the movie, I do remember that, and felt that I should be exposed to John Cusack albeit at very end of his peak. It also had the added bonus of fantastic music. She did well because this film single handedly started my love affair with Cusack, which led me down the rabbit hole of his previous excellence, and provided me with one of my now favorite bands of all time, The Beta Band.
As I watch it now, it has a completely different effect on me. Half because it’s set in Chicago, where I currently live, and half because I’m older with more experience in relationships; the whole driving idea behind High Fidelity. Cusack does the romantic comedy so damn well. Say Anything… is one of the best romantic comedies to date, where the hopeless romantic misfit falls for the perfect, smart, but rather unpopular girl. Before I get on a tangent about it, check it out if you haven’t yet seen it.
To me, High Fidelity is the grown up version of Say Anything…. It tugs at the heart strings in similar ways and High Fidelity’s Rob Gordon (Cusack) is an older, more defined, Lloyd Dobler (Cusack). While Dobler is unsure of his life after high school, Gordon has discovered his passion, even if he is currently struggling to make it lucrative. Both stories are so relatable, both characters have their flaws and while you don’t know if you should always be rooting for Gordon, he’s so painfully honest you can’t not like him. And let’s be honest, we all have a “nemesis” like Kevin Bannister enter into our lives at some point.
Maybe Gordon does screw up his relationship with Laura, there are two sides of every story and hers seems to be much more harsh than how he describes it. Everything, even admitting to one’s significant other that you sometimes think about being with other women, can be properly explained away.
While Gordon is traversing his past relationships and trying to mend his latest one with Laura he is surrounded by music. He even begins organizing his extensive music collection autobiographically. Who the fuck can ever organize their records autobiographically? It’s genius, pathetic and yet so oddly endearing. It draws the line between those who casually listen to music and have favorite artists and those whose lives are defined by music. If you are able to, as Gordon can, remember exactly what month of what year you found Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and failed to gift it to a friend, music truly has a stranglehold on you, in the best way possible.
The Beta Band is the one specific artist that stood out to me the first time I watched the film, and as I write this, the band’s Best Of album is pumping through my speakers. As Gordon puts it, “I will now sell five copies of The Three E.P.’s by The Beta Band.” As soon as he puts on the song, “Dry The Rain,” heads beginning turning and guests inquire as to whom the honeyed brit-pop tones belong to.
Before High Fidelity, The Beta Band was decently popular in the UK, but was failing to attract audiences across the pond. As Cusack drops the needle, (sadly The Three E.P.’s has never been released on vinyl so he merely hits play), American audiences were immediately treated to a fantastic sound, the poppy, experimental and floating vocals of The Beta Band. Beyond The Three E.P.’s, the group has three studio albums and a few compilation albums.
The film also features music from such greats as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, include a cameo of his, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Elton John and Aretha Franklin. And it all has it’s rightful place in the movie. The elitist stylings of Barry, Dick and Gordon are imperative to the honesty of the music in the movie. It’s not there just because the songs are good, they are there for a reason.
The film combines everything you need in a RomCom. Incredible music, a lovable lead and two fantastic costars, (Cusack, Jack Black and Todd Louiso have the most perfect of on-screen friendship, fighting over whether there is a THE at the beginning of an album title.) Although it may not be in my Top 5 favorite movies of all time, do yourself a favor and re-watch it or watch it for the first time. Whichever category you may fall in you’ll be happy you did.