High Fidelity (2000)

high_fidelityBy: The Cinephiliac (A Toast) –

I’m a bit of an elitist when it comes to music. I’m very opinionated about what I enjoy, even more so about the music that I don’t. I’m one of those “down with mainstream pop music” people because I feel that mainstream pop these days doesn’t offer listeners anything novel or creative. On average, I attend at least one concert a week, if not more, and I’m not above shushing a Chatty Cathy in the middle of a show who’s ruining the overall sound and experience for me. I’m a bit of what you could call “supercilious” when it comes to music, but after watching Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity, a film that revolves around a similarly pompous music lover and his struggles with emotional commitment, I’ve received great comfort in having my impeccable music taste validated along with my desire to be understood.

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is the owner of Championship Vinyl, a Chicago record store run by a group of misfit music snobs. A highbrow audiophile with an affinity for lists, Rob finds himself in the throes of his 30s, scoffing at everything around him, and recently bitter due to a blindside break up. Although Rob’s long-term relationship with the yin to his yang, Laura, fizzled away, he refuses to let it burn out. Unsure of what steps to take in rebuilding his broken relationship, Rob recurrently refers to a mental list of top five breakups throughout his life in an attempt to learn about himself. Rob reminisces over each scorned woman he dated before deciding to revisit each one for the harsh dirty details of why he’s so difficult to commit to. All the while, Rob must come to terms with growing older while also finding security and stability in life.


A Toast

The most endearingly awesome aspect of High Fidelity is its phenomenal soundtrack and discussions of music. Any music lover can relate to this film. Merely watching the story unfold in the confines of a record store was enough to make my mouth salivate over the rare copies and iconic album covers featured in the background. For serious music fans watching High Fidelity becomes an active watching experience that prompts answers to Rob’s loudmouthed co-worker Barry’s (Jack Black) questions of top 5 songs about death or top 5 songs to play on a Monday. It becomes easy to fall into conversation over benign musical politics like Steve Wonder’s overall music quality. High Fidelity boasts a killer soundtrack that prompts head nods, neck weaving, and lots of written reminders of songs and albums to check out at the behest of the characters.


The thought of living in this room is better than sex.

High Fidelity is a powerhouse combination of a brilliant screenplay and a perfect lead actor that go hand in hand to make a charming, romantic dramedy complete with topics of love, loss, and Rock and Roll. John Cusack has always succeeded at being the charming everyman. He’s not dangerously handsome, but is conventionally attractive. He’s not the type you’d expect to win in a fight, but he seems like the type of guy who will take a punch for something he stands for. He doesn’t come off like the nicest, most thoughtful guy, but he seems like one of those guys who’s constantly trying to do better and make strides in life. Every charming aspect that has given Cusack his young, boyish glow since the 1980s is ever-present in High Fidelity. Rob Gordon is a perfect extension of the Cusack archetype. Cusack brings a magnetizing charm to Rob as well as humor and deep empathetic seriousness.

Much of High Fidelity’s graceful narrative is owed to Nick Hornby, the writer of the novel the film is based on. However, that’s not to ignore the triumphant collaboration of Cusack, Steve Oink, Scott Rosenberg and D.V. DeVincentis’ screenplay. Its look into relationships and the work that is involved with committing to someone is its most poignantly relatable aspect. Rob’s character, furthermore his transformation, explicates how in the beginning of any fling, the heated passion makes the quirks and nuances of a partner excusable and tolerable. Yet, as time passes and familiarity grows many begin to feel that fire simmer to a smoky barrier. The work to blow the billowing puffs of smoke into more heat that catches to rekindle the fire is entirely dependent on the person. High Fidelity shows how fickle emotions can be, while also showing how dedication and persistence can save a relationship.


“What do you say we go back to my place and pull out that remastered import of Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On and start our own little riot.”



High Fidelity is great film that revolves around two of the simplest pleasures in human life: love and music. It’s funny, smart, and engaging, and if anybody says anything bad about it, they’re as terrible as half the crap that’s featured on the Top 40 charts right now.


Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every album cover you recognize.

Take a Drink: for every list

Do a Shot: for every list you can complete

Take a Drink: for every girl who dumps Rob

Take a Drink: for every band mentioned that you recognize.

Take a drink: for every song you discover in this film.

About The Cinephiliac

Twenty-something film reviewer, social critic, and cultural analyst searching for a place in the sun. Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.

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