Low on plot and high on self-discovery, High Fidelity takes a good 30 minutes or so to find its groove (not unlike Cusack's Grosse Pointe Blank), but once it does, it settles into it comfortably and builds a surprisingly touching momentum. Rob is basically a grown-up version of Cusack's character in Say Anything (who was told "Don't be a guy--be a man!"), and if you like Cusack's brand of smart-alecky romanticism, you'll automatically be won over (if you can handle Cusack's almost-nonstop talking to the camera). Still, it's hard not to be moved by Rob's plight. At the beginning of the film he and his coworkers at the record store (played hilariously by Jack Black and Todd Louiso) seem like overgrown boys in their secret clubhouse; by the end, they've grown up considerably, with a clear-eyed view of life. Ably directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons), High Fidelity features a notable supporting cast of the women in Rob's life, including the striking, Danish-born Hjejle, Lisa Bonet as a sultry singer-songwriter, and the triumphant triumvirate of Lili Taylor, Joelle Carter, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rob's ex-girlfriends. With brief cameos by Tim Robbins as Laura's new, New Age boyfriend and Bruce Springsteen as himself. --Mark Englehart
But actually their hyper-critical views are pretty close to the mark. It's great to hear someone else noticing and lamenting the 1980s decline of Stevie Wonder, for example. One might criticise author Hornby for selecting Rob's dream job as record producer in the punk era (1976-79) when he could have chosen, say, late 1960s Beach Boys / Beatles psychedelia. But you can never find someone with the identical taste as your own. Strangely, the music is not particularly central to this movie, in the sense that it probably generated fewer album sales for featured artists like Marvin Gaye than say 'The Big Chill'.
The structure of the movie takes a little getting used to. The first time you see it can be a disappointment -- there's no upbeat climactic ending, unless you count the improbable, rather obviously tacked-on, disco/concert by Sonic Death Metal, or whatever they happened to be called at the time. John Cusack's frequent chats to camera seem altogether natural (except when he's sauntering backwards and forwards on some wooden bridge-cum-platform in downtown Chicago).
What I like about this film is that, from a male viewpoint, it rings true so often. Men do behave treacherously, and the behaviour often looks worse at first sight. I like the fact that the actress who played Laura wasn't stunningly attractive. Even Lisa Bonet didn't seem particularly beautiful in the movie. (But yes, that really is Catherine Zeta-Jones discreetly stripping off in a role just before she became famous enough to warrant a major Hollywood film credit.)
This is not the perfect movie, but it contains a message about the male psyche that I hadn't extracted from any other movie, and that revelation in itself is sufficiently uplifting to distract from the artificial attempt by the film to uplift via the back-together-again concert/disco scenario.