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Touchstone Home Video presents
High Fidelity (2000)

"Do I listen to pop music because I'm miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?"
- Rob Gordon (John Cusack)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: September 27, 2000

Stars: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle
Other Stars: Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Todd Louiso
Director: Stephen Frears

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:54m:00s
Release Date: September 19, 2000
UPC: 717951009944
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I believe it is safe to say that I am a hard-core DVD collector. In just a little over a year, I have upgraded my TV and sound system—AND purchased over 200 movies, all for the sake of this silly little format. There is just something about being able to own a film. It is more than just having the ability to watch the actual "product" at any time. It is, essentially, taking a snap-shot of a particular moment in your life. For example, whether I know it or not, every time I put on Fox's animated Anastasia, I will think of seeing the film on a cold winter day with my family. That is why I can identify so well with the characters in High Fidelity, the film based on Nick Hornby's 1995 novel of the same name. They feel about music the way that I do about film.

Rob Gordon (John Cusack—Stand By Me, Pushing Tin, Grosse Pointe Blank) is the owner of one of the last vinyl-only music stores in the city. He and his two employees, Barry (Jack Black—The Cable Guy) and Dick (Todd Louiso—Jerry Maguire) are fanatical about music. They regularly engage in heated debates (well, if you call Dick screaming his opinion and anyone who will listen a debate) about the smallest musical questions; everything from "the top five track one, side ones" to "the top five songs about death" is an issue ripe for discussion. Too bad Rob didn't learn to show this kind of attention to his relationships with women.

To say Rob is unlucky in love would be an understatement. He has just broken up with his girlfriend of several years, Laura (newcomer Iben Hjejle) who wants more from the relationship then the perpetual child Rob provides. In order to deal with his emotional problems and draw some sense of deeper understanding from his scarred relationship history, Rob decides to examine, in depth, his (what else?) top five, desert island break-ups. During the course of the film, Rob confronts his past and decides if he has the courage to face the future. OK, that sounds cheesy. Basically, Rob has to decide if he wants to live a lonely and immature life or if he wants to bite the bullet, show some backbone, and do what it takes to make a relationship work. I can't say I envy him.

This film was very well directed by Stephen Frears. I have seen films that use a lot of the talk-to-the-camera technique before, and some of them don't come off too well—the "personal" aspect instead comes off as annoying. Here, however, it works great. The camera doesn't make a big deal of the changes, but switches from dialogue to monologue on-the-fly. Of course, a lot of the success is due to Cusack's performance. He gives Rob just the right mix of "nice guy" and whiner. Hjejle is good as well, especially considering that the part is rather underwritten. The performance you will really remember, however, is Jack Black as the insane music-guru Barry. Black (of "the greatest rock band of all time," Tenacious D) really goes all out to ensure that Barry reminds you of every annoying guy you've ever met. And it turns out that he is a darn fine singer as well. The rest of the supporting cast is outstanding as well, but Jack Black is the real stand-out here.

I have heard this film referred to as a "chick-flick." I feel I have to step in and say that that is probably the most inaccurate description of this film I can think of. It is the ANTI chick-flick. This film basically illustrates what goes on inside the mind of every guy when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. Sometimes the stupid things Rob did were SO painful to watch because I knew that I, in the same situation, would do the exact same thing. I saw John Cusack on The Daily Show around the time of the film's release, and he said something that made a lot of sense. this is a movie that will make women leave the theater thinking, "So THAT'S why he does those things," and men leave thinking, "EXACTLY!"

An interesting tidbit...John Cusack's apartment in the film is actually the apartment of someone who attends my school. There was a big article about it in the university newspaper last year. Ah, a brush with fame (in a "six degrees" sort of way). Of course, I have to give props to any movie that features my beloved Chi-town so prominently. It was so cool to see Rob riding around on the accursed El trains (so called because they pass my window every 15 minutes, but that is beside the point).

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Disney has been so kind as to grace High Fidelity with one of their elusive anamorphic transfers, and you must admit, when Disney does things right, they really do them right. Even without the benefit of anamorphic display, however, there is no doubt the image here is top-notch. Black level and color contrast are excellent, and there is minimal (if any) shimmer or edge enhancement present. Discs like this just make me wish Buena Vista would commit to across-the-board anamorphic transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio for High Fidelity is impressive as well̬it goes far beyond the usual front heavy comedy mix. That is not to say that there are a lot of surround effects—everything is still mostly in the fronts (dialogue is always clean and clear), but the music uses the full range of speakers to fine result. There are actually some pretty impressive things going on in the surrounds during the rain sequences, too. A very nice mix from Disney.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 29 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Deleted Scenes
10 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Conversations with writer/producer John Cusack and director Stephen Frears
  2. 9 deleted scenes
  3. Theatrical trailer
Extras Review: There aren't too many extras here, but what is here is very interesting. In addition to the theatrical trailer, there are nine deleted scenes, presented in finished form (and, according to those with a 16:9 set, anamorphic, too!). All are very funny, and could just as easily have been left in the film. My favorite is a scene that was in the novel involving a very bitter, betrayed spouse that will make any collector shudder. Also included are ten 2-3 minute snippets of interviews with Cusack and Frears. Recorded separately, the two discuss issues such as casting, selection of music, and the difficulties in transferring the story from London to Chicago. The interviews total about 25 minutes. Again, the supplements aren't extensive, but they are satisfying.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

I have always had a soft-spot for John Cusack's 1980's teen films, and High Fidelity seems like an extension of the characters he played in Better Off Dead and Say Anything. Like his last major project, Grosse Pointe Blank, Cusack has once again helped to create one of the most unique and affecting romantic-comedies of the decade.

High Fidelity, made less than $30 million at the box-office, was not the hit Disney was hoping for. Hopefully, the fine DVD they have put together for the film will expose it to a bigger audience.


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