100. High Fidelity (2000)

Man, am I rusty.  When I was writing most of the entries for my Top 100 Songs, they came out relatively easily, because I had been doing it consistently for a while.  I had a good process and the words came out (mostly) easily, sometimes so much so that my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.  But for this first post on the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime, my brain is like my first car, an old 1980 Datsun 510 station wagon near the end of its life – starting in fitful spurts.  My friends in the back seat would be hopeful that the engine was about to turn over, but I knew better.  “We’re gonna have to roll start this thing,” I’d say.  “Get out and push, guys.”

I’ve now officially written five different openings to my essay on High Fidelity*, but none of them appear to be anything more than a brief spurt, meaning they sound pretty good but won’t get me very far.  So who’s going to roll start my brain?

Finally, after just letting my mind go blank for a bit (which was pretty easy for me), the solution came to me via my wife, Jennifer.  Since John Cusack’s character of Rob Gordon reminds me so much of my brother, Scott, I thought it’d be fun to write the essay from Scott’s point of view.  When I explained this to Jennifer, she asked, “What?  Like you’ll interview him?”  That wasn’t what I was thinking about, but it’s a great idea.  I’ll write about High Fidelity as a fictional interview, Rolling Stone style.  Peter Travers took the Top 5 motif from in the movie and used it for his review, so I think it’s only fitting that I use their long-form interview for my take on High Fidelity.

When I meet up with Scott, he’s standing in front of a taco truck in San Francisco, patiently waiting for his order.  I’m the one who’s actually running a few minutes late, but he doesn’t appear annoyed.  His hair is disheveled, but not distractingly so, and his clothes are a conglomeration of thrift store highlights that alternative teenagers would spend ten times as much for at Urban Outfitters.  He offers me a taco from his plate that I politely decline, and I return the kind offer by getting the both of us some aguas frescas.  We sit at a favorite bench of his nearby as he starts in on his tacos.

Kent:    So what makes High Fidelity a great movie?

Scott:   More than any movie I can think of, this movie was made for me.  It’s about a guy my age who runs a record store and loves music.  LOVES music. 

Kent:    What else?

Scott:   He’s a smart, funny guy who has trouble with relationships.  He loves to DJ and is a music snob.  All of those things could describe me as well.

Kent:  Yeah, but why would someone like me, or even, God forbid, a woman, consider it a great movie?

Scott:   Most probably don’t, but if they do, it’s because the movie is so strong in showing Rob’s emotional journey and growth.  His girlfriend Laura is as much an everywoman as Rob is an everyman.  She’s even more approachable than Rob, and I’d bet that a lot of women see themselves in Laura.

Kent:    So it’s a chick flick movie wrapped up in a music geek wrapper?

Scott:   Kind of.  There’s definitely a portion of it that would speak to a woman.  They’d probably like how he spends the majority of the movie reexamining his past relationships, searching for what went wrong, and how he can learn from them.  He said it best when he said about one of his exes - the Catherine Zeta-Jones character, “You gotta punch your weight.  Don’t date a girl out of your league.”

Kent:    I totally disagree.  I’m happily married to a woman who’s out of my league.  And she’s happy too.  I’m living proof that you should swing for the fences, because the great thing about Jennifer and I is that we both think we’re the luckiest people around.

Scott:   But you’re the exception to the rule.  Rob & I are a bit more pragmatic. 

Kent:    What are your thoughts on the breaking of the fourth wall?

Scott:   The what?

Kent:    Breaking the fourth wall.  You know, where a character directly addresses the audience, looking at us through the camera.

Scott:   Oh, that.  I think for a movie like this, it works.  The whole point is to know not only what Rob says, but what Rob’s thinking.  Having Cusack talk to the camera is way more interesting than some voice-over would’ve been.

Kent:    Yeah.  It’s kinda like Ferris Beuller grew up and now owns a record store. 

Scott:   Ferris what?

Kent:    Ferris Bueller.  It’s the- oh, forget it.  Anyway, one review I read said that Jack Black “shoplifts the movie from Cusack” with his performance as Barry.  Is that bad for a movie when something like that happens?

Scott:   That’s a funny line, but he didn’t steal the movie.  That’s not fair to Jack.  Rather than steal the movie, his performance is like a car crash, but in a good way.  You just can’t look away.  Stealing implies that Jack Black WANTED to steal it.  You don’t steal something on accident.  I’d like to think, as an actor, that he’s more generous than that.  I met him once, and he was generous to me, and I’m just the guy who works at the record store where Tenacious D played.

Kent:    I agree.  I also think that it takes away from John’s performance.  Rob’s not as flashy as Barry, but that performance is the soul of the movie.  And lest we forget Todd Louiso’s equally brilliant performance as Dick.  He’s so understated and quiet, but you can’t help but watch his every move, too.

Scott:   You’re right.  And that one scene where Rob daydreams about a confrontation with Tim Robbins’ Ian/Ray character, it’s Dick who rips the air conditioner out of the wall to bash Ray’s head in.  It’s so out of character that I still laugh when I think about it.

Kent:    Speaking of Ian/Ray, what are your thoughts on Tim Robbins?

Scott:   Oh man, was he bad.  Don’t get me wrong.  Tim Robbins is a great actor, but he’s just terrible in this movie.

Kent:    No arguments there.  Do you have a problem with the filmmakers changing the location of the movie from England to Chicago?

Scott:   I don’t usually like it when they mess with books too much, but in this case, it makes the movie much more relatable to me, so I’m okay with it.  Besides, America is where rock, jazz, soul, R&B, rap and hip-hop were invented, so it seems a natural choice.

Kent:    It’s funny that you say that.  I read an interview with John Cusack where he related a conversation he had with Nick Hornby, who wrote the book.  “We want to set it in Chicago.  If that’s gonna make you sick, you gotta tell us.  Nick said, ‘No, that’s great.  My book’s about more than geography.”

Scott:   It’s nice that he was cool with it.  I would still probably love the movie if it was in a London record shop, but I probably would’ve loved it even more if they’d set it in San Francisco.  Then it would be the perfect movie!

Kent:    Did you like how it ended?

Scott:   I did.  I really did.  Rob grew emotionally by the end- but not too much to make it a “happily ever after” ending. 

Kent:    You don’t like “happily ever after” endings.

Scott:   Uh, no.  That’s not an interesting ending.  I like movies where I can’t see where they’re going all the time.  Too many movies today are moviemaking by numbers affairs, and that just bores me.

Kent:    So you’re not going to see New Year’s Eve?

Scott:   What’s that?

Kent:    Exactly.  Anyway…  Thanks for your thoughts, Scott.

Scott:   No problem.  Let’s go get some more tacos.

So that’s what I think Scott would say about High Fidelity.  And it’s pretty close to what I would say, too.  It’s an almost perfect movie for someone like Scott, but I really love it too.  That’s why it makes it on my list of the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime.


 Just like a great B-side, the screenplay (by John Cusack, his writing/producing buddies D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink – as well as Scott Rosenbert) has the perfect intro to Rob.  Having read it, I wish they would've opened the movie with it.  But I can understand that cuts have to be made, and this opening would've taken a good minute longer.  Still…



Not a minisystem, not a matching set, but coveted audiophile
clutter of McIntosh and Nakamichi, each component from a
different era, bought piece by piece in various nanoseconds
of being flush.


Big thin LPs.  Fields of them.  We move across them, slowly...
they seem to come to rest in an end of a few books... but
then the CD's start, and go on, faster and faster, forever
then the singles, then the tapes...

It seems the records, tapes, and CD's will never end until...
we come to ROB -- always a hair out of place, a face that
grows on you.  He sits in an oversized beanbag chair and
addresses us, the wall of music behind him.


  • As wonderful a movie as High Fidelity is, there are some shortcomings I have to acknowledge.  Firstly, whoever was in charge of the hairstyling and wigs on this movie should have their head shaved.  In all of the flashbacks of Rob and with Tim Robbins’ ridiculous wig, the hair department fails in every regard.
  • Speaking of Tim Robbins.  He’s a fantastic actor (and will appear later in this list), but boy, does he suck ass in this movie.  Sorry, Tim, but you do.
  • For those annoyed by the breaking of the fourth wall, this movie must be insufferable, because Rob is one big, fat whiner.

I put together a couple of videos of all my favorite clips from the movie.  Enjoy!

Just a quick note to Barry...  Say what you want about "I Just Called to Say I Love You," but in 1984, this song that you so deride won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for best original song from a film.  So I think Stevie Wonder might say something like, "Suck it, Barry.  I got a motherf*in' Oscar."

And in keeping with the b-side record theme, there's a great deleted scene that didn't make it into the movie.  It doesn't really fit in with the storyline of Rob reexamining his past, so I understand why it's not in the movie, but it is hilarious.  It's especially funny if you know (or are) a record collector.

I said that I'd post what's coming up next so you could watch the movie ahead of time if you want to.  So #99 on the list will be the first Transformers movie, released in 2007.

*  Maybe I'll release them on the remastered version of my list in 2019.
1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Top 100 movies, eh? Well, that's quite an order and I would, if you don't mind, put together one myself and list it in my facebook page. Thanks for the inspiration. High Fidelity is a good choice to start off the list, but man, it hits a little too close to home.

    Your old PHS pal, Ramon.