It seems that John Cusack is never going to grow up. For some 15 years now, he’s been making movies that appeal to the same audience. Now this is good. Movies like Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer were more of a slapstick variety, and his later movies seem to appeal to the same group of people, only as they have aged. I guess I can relate to movies like Grosse Point Blank a little better now, because they deal with issues that are more suited to me. Cusack, into his thirties now, still delivers some memorable performances and it’s with his latest High Fidelity that just might hit a bit too close to home for some of us. The film is really nothing more than a diary of one Rob Gordon. Rob is in the midst of breaking up with his most current girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle) and in a manner called “breaking the fourth wall” (this is essentially looking straight into the camera and talking to the audience) describes for us, the top 5 most troubling breakups of his life to date.
Rob is the owner of a record store called Championship Vinyl. The store specializes in selling music the way it was before the “digital revolution”, LP’s. While not the most successful store in the Chicago area, it provides Rob with an income, but not much more. Rob’s two “employees”, Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) are essentially just customers of the store who won’t leave. Though annoying to Rob, they provide him with companionship and someone to talk music with. The whole movie is about Rob trying to justify and figure out what has happened with his latest love. Laura is set on being a successful lawyer, and it’s finally gotten to her that Rob has no ambitions for the future. As Rob starts off recounting the girlfriends of the past, he tries to catch up with them now, only to find that they have all gone on with their lives. Some single, some married but Rob manages to dissect what went wrong with all of his previous relationships only to figure out what to salvage with his most current one.
The main theme, aside from relationships, is music. It’s the common tie that has held true to Rob and all his previous encounters. Whether it’s organizing his record collection chronically or debating with Barry and Dick about what the best number one track of a record is, music plays a very important part in Rob’s life. I have to admit that I (and probably a LOT of you out there) can really relate to this movie on one level or another. The soundtrack is great, which I went out and bought, and features tracks from Bob Dylan, The Kinks and Velvet Underground just to name a few. Also, be on the lookout for several cameos by some other stars. Tim Robbins, Sara Gilbert, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack and Lisa Bonet all have small, but important parts in this movie. Odds are that if you liked Grosse Point Blank, this will be right up your alley.
Video: How does it look?
High Fidelity is shown in a 1.85:1 AVC HD image that looks fairly good. I remember that this disc was one of the first to receive an anamorphic transfer when it debuted on DVD back in 2000, so I was curious to see how a dozen years have treated this film. As it turns out, not too bad. Disney has taken some of their catalog titles and has supposedly given them “new digital transfers.” Well, that’s a broad term and while the movie does sport a sharper appearance compared to its DVD counterpart, it’s not quite as good as I’d have hoped. Some of the scenes are a bit soft, others have a little more grain than I would have thought and though black levels and contrast are consistent, the overall consistency is a bit hit and miss. My advice is to set the bar a bit low and you’ll likely not be too disappointed.
Audio: How does it sound?
When the title of the movie is High Fidelity, I supposed it’d better deliver in regard to audio, right? Well, it does but then again we’re not supposed to be blown away. What we get is a re-mastered DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s a step up over the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 track found on the DVD. Yes, this film sports more songs than your typical musical and they all sound very good. Dialogue is crisp and clear, though Cusack tends to have a low, gravelly voice that’s a bit hard to understand at times. This isn’t the fault of the soundtrack; of course, it’s just how he talks. But if you’ve ever wanted to hear Jack Black sing Marvin Gaye in full uncompressed audio – well here’s your chance. So yes, it’s an improvement over the DVD but not by leaps and bounds as it didn’t sound that bad the first go ‘round.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In the good and bad department, Disney has ported over all of the supplements from the original DVD. So we don’t get any new supplements here (a shame), but we don’t miss out on anything from the old disc, either. That said, we do get a pretty interesting conversation with Cusack and director Stephen Frears as the two talk about the shoot, the plot and of course – the music. We get nine deleted scenes as well as the theatrical trailer.