What I’m Watching: High Fidelity

I have a confession to make.  It’s not that I never saw High Fidelity; it’s more that I saw it at exactly the wrong point in my life and have shunned High Fidelity for years.

Let me explain.

When High Fidelity first came out, I was sort of in an “I’m over John Cusack” state of mind so I didn’t go see it in the movies, despite the allure of the record store setting.  (For the unknowing: I worked in a record store for a few years in high school, and it was pretty fantastic.  A thousand years later I’m still friends with many of my former co-workers and we get to music-geek out anew whenever we get together, much to the chagrin of our spouses and partners.  And I digress.)  When I DID see it…

I had taken a road trip to Massachusetts to visit some friends of mine a few weeks after my ex-husband and I split up.  Even though I was the one who initiated the split, it was still a difficult transitional period; I had unraveled the fabric of my life and had no idea what was next other than that I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge.  My friends (you know who you are, ladies, and I still love you!  XO) thought it would be totally girly to watch a John Cusack movie together, since they’re usually funny and full of endearingly pithy bumblings.  Normally they’d be right. I didn’t really know what the movie was about except that it was sort of a disaffected Gen-X romantic comedy that took place in a record store.  I think I’d only ever seen the trailer…

…which doesn’t exactly tell you that the movie opens with John Cusack’s girlfriend moving out as they end their long-term relationship, and then launches into a diatribe about Rob Gordon (Cusack)’s Top Five breakups…


Did you know you can develop an eye twitch in just 4 minutes and 39 seconds?  It’s true.  I timed it.  My friends stopped the film perhaps five or six minutes in and asked me if I wanted to watch something else but I said, “Oh, no.  It’s too late now, I’m sure I’ve seen the worst of it,” which was true.  We watched it through to the end and while there was no other part of the movie that punched me in the throat, the damage was done.  I haven’t seen it since.  Despite the allure of the record store stuff.  Despite the inherent music geekery.  But!  As I am a resilient human being, I’ve thought for a while now that I really ought to watch it again.

So I did.

First, I have to make note as to how my sensibilities have changed.  There was a part of me that wanted to retitle the movie to John Cusack Smokes, because he’s got a grit in nearly every scene, which at one point in my life I would have thought was totally cool, if it had even registered as something worth my notice.

Second, they nail the music geekery.  So.  So.  Well.  This “Top 5 Songs About Death” scene nearly killed me, it was so spot-on.

Especially because there was an immediate disqualification involving an unspoken, never-before-considered and organically understood rule of what “counts”.  Genius!  And the part where Rob Gordon discusses the rules of the mixtape?  Perfection.  When Rob reorganizes his record collection autobiographically?  Wow.  I mean, I’ve got mine organized alphabetically by group or artist, and then alphabetically by title for those groups in which there is more than one album.  And I have argued with the people who have them categorized alphabetically by artist and then, for more than one record by an artist, chronologically.  Oh, yes, I’ve argued.  Passionately.  But autobiographically?  Never.  The mind wobbles.  Oh!  And the line, “Get your patchouli stink outta my store” should be immortalized the world over, because I was with Rob on that.  I mean, I was really with him on that.

And I also…it gives me much chagrin to say this…I loved…I mean, lovedJack Black in this film.  Sure, he was the asshole snotty record store guy, but he was awesome.  Passionate.  Funny.  Abrasive, of course, but he kept his eyebrows under control and didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time mugging for the camera.  Maybe I liked him so much because my perceptions are colored by his latter-day tendency to rely on facial contortions but nevertheless, his performance gets a win from me.



I can honestly say, without the impact of a recent breakup influencing me, that I really didn’t like this movie all that much.  I thought Rob Gordon was a terrible person who didn’t deserve any of the girlfriends he had.  I thought the writers didn’t give him enough time to grow up as much as he supposedly grew up in this movie.  I didn’t believe in his journey, and I didn’t believe that {{{spoiler alert}}} Laura came back to him for any reason other than it was preferable to re-entering the dating scene.   The movie was written by Nick Hornby, who I know can give the world a believable coming-of-adulthood story about a self-absorbed man-child since he did that so wonderfully in About A Boy.  I found it a little sad that this movie–which I had given so much negative energy to for so long because of bad timing–was really kind of an emotional letdown.  Though it’s nice to finally have that weird little clutch purse of emotional baggage destroyed.

As an aside…if you want to watch a great record store movie (even with the few temporal flaws and leaps of logic you would have to accept), watch Empire Records.  (Please enjoy the slightly extended scene below.)

And so, there you have it.  I need to go watch all of Empire Records now, I feel it calling to me.  I’m sure I’ll write about this movie soon enough.  Though it always begs this question of me: why do so many of my favorite movies feature Liv Tyler?

5 responses to What I’m Watching: High Fidelity

  1. Of course I have left the world of CD’s and am now totally MP3 (or FLAC), but I will vouch for the alphabetically by artist/chronologically by album organizing routine. Can’t imagine alphabetical.

    Also, I’m sure you’ve heard this, but the book is FAR superior to the movie (a phrase which I know is cringe inducing, but in this case its true).


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’ve heard from many, many people that the book is much better, and I may get around to it eventually, but I’m so far behind on books I want to read…*sigh*…some day.

      As for album organization, George is with me on the alphabetical/alphabetical system, which is probably part of the reason we have a harmonious and understanding relationship. LOL


  2. He’s been in MANY a questionable film, but still….how is it possible that ANYONE can go through an “I’m Over John Cusack” phase????


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