High Fidelity

This is probably the most highly acclaimed movie of the year so far, but I couldn't quite get why people think it is so spectacular. I didn't find it roll-on-the-floor hilarious, or grab-your-heart moving. I think it's a good movie, but somehow I didn't connect with it the way so many people did. It seemed to me that it thought it was wiser and funnier than it really was. This may just be my generation gap showing.

The fundamental premise: record store geek with no life gets dumped by his girl, and reviews the reasons in minute detail - with his friends, in his head, and with the camera.

Ummm ... OK. That's pretty lame, but three things redeem it and make it excellent.

The first big plus is that the geek in question is played by John Cusack, who continues to do what he has always done best - to be a normal likeable guy in a crazy insensitive world. This character is Lane from Better Off Dead, except now he's grown up. Cusack also contributed as a writer, so the dialogue is custom-tailored to his world view.

The second big plus is that the movie treats the break-up subject with complete honesty and even a touch of poetry. I though one genuinely touching scene was Cusack's "Top Five Things I Miss Most About Laura", a soliloquy as notable for Cusack's smooth, unaffected performance as for the words he speaks. Watching this might cause a lump in your throat. (By the way, the top five lists are a running theme in the movie)

The third big plus is a succession of great minor characters, especially Jack Black as the ultimate elitist passionate know-it-all music geek.

No nudity at all. Not even close. The sex scenes are tastefully cut. The film was rated R for language and subject matter.

Box office: not a blockbuster, but a moderate success in selected theaters (1231 screens.) Domestic box of $27 million on a $20 million budget.

IMDB summary: 8.0 out of 10. (In the top 200 of all time)

Rotten Tomatoes summary. 86% positive, and 94% from the top critics.

Consensus: about three and a half out of four. I guess that's about right. I wouldn't place it in the top 200 of all time, or even close, but it's a good movie.

DVD info from Amazon. The DVD has plenty of extras. About a dozen deleted scenes, at least two of which are absolutely great and should have been left in. Plus conversations with Cusack (also a co-writer), and the director, and two versions of the film. This is worth owning.

The two deleted scenes I loved:

1. A great dialogue between John Cusack and Beverly D'Angelo. She plays a woman selling her despised husband's record collection. I won't explain, because that would spoil it. Just watch it.

2. A Cusack monologue. In the scenes which stayed in, we find out that Cusack said and did some pretty ugly things in the relationship, and he touchingly admits them directly to us over a beer. In the scene they cut, immediately after the confession, he gets up from the bar and says "Ok, I said and did those things, and you probably think I'm an asshole, but if you haven't already made up your mind about me - here's a top five list for you. Write down the worst five things you ever did to the person you've loved the most. It's especially good if they don't know about them. Don't try to explain or rationalize them. Just write them down honestly and factually."

Cut to the outside of the bar. Brief pause, we see the bar door. Cusack resumes his monologue coming through the door. "Ok, time's up. Pencils down. Read your list. ...

...Who's the asshole now?"

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