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High Fidelity review
High Fidelity


Based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity is essentially a coming of age story. It focuses on Rob Gordon (Rob Fleming in the novel), who was recently dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Laura. Feeling hurt and rejected, he focuses on his top five most painful break-ups, and eventually decides to try and make amends for each one, and to find out why he keeps getting rejected.

The top five theme isn't unusual for Rob, who works in a record store. He and his two workmates, Dick and Barry spend days coming up with lists. Top ten songs to be played on a Monday morning, top five best track one, side ones songs, all time top five, top five dance songs, top five films of all time…if it can be listed, they'll be the ones to do it.

The film, like the book, zigzags through Rob's somewhat lackluster present through his past, and his attempts to reconcile it. He meets with the women on his list to ask them what he did wrong. He's also dealing with the feelings of disappointment he has as to how his life turned out, and his hurt over Laura leaving him.

The name High Fidelity has two obvious references; it's a term used by audiophiles to describe high quality sound reproduction, and it's also a pun on the word infidelity (adultery). Both these themes, music, and romantic relationships, are the main focus of the book. The action has been transplanted from London to Chicago, although, luckily it's managed to keep many of it's idiosyncrasies intact.

Rob Gordon, the main character, is played by John Cusack. Although he's not how I pictured Rob when I read the book, I must concede that he played the part well, and managed to get the feelings of the character across in a more effective way than the book did. As a coming of age story, the film relies on strong characterization rather than a strong plot, and Cusack manages to keep Rob sympathetic and likable.

Jack Black plays Barry, and the role is similar to many he's played in the past – a wannabe musician who ridicules other taste in favour of his own, much like his character in School of Rock, with less of a fondness for children.

Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Charlie, the big break up in Rob's life. Again, she's not how I pictured her, and she's barely on-screen long enough to impinge on the audience's consciousness, although Cusack's reaction to her is believable (his reaction is, actually, more important than she is to the film), and his description of his new opinion far more frank and forthright than it is in the book.

The original book was written in first person, and the film manages to keep the focus on him and his emotions. This means that other characters get fairly little screen time in comparison, and are less well developed.

The film differs very little from the book. Instead of an inner monologue, Rob's thoughts are shown in conversations with other characters or by breaking the fourth-wall, and several of the culture references – mostly obviously, the songs and films mentioned – are updated, due to the five-year difference. Most of the scenes with Rob's parents are cut out, and several of his meetings with the four women he needs to get over are cut a little shorter, and glossed over more. In the film, one of his top five, Jackie, was only placed on the list to keep Laura off it, and little more than her name is mentioned. The film keeps certain other events, such as the four things Rob did to hurt Laura, but loses the better lines used in the novel to describe them.

It's not a bad film. It's pretty funny, and touching in parts. I don't like Laura any more than I did in the book, and Marie De Salle's race is changed – I pictured her as resembling Katie Melua more than anything. It was a little faster moving than the book, which could be slow. It's a better and more faithful adaption than the one of About a Boy, another of Hornby's novels, but then I liked the book High Fidelity less than I did About a Boy.

In summary, it's worth watching if you enjoyed the book, or if it happens to be on TV, but otherwise, it's not really worth making a point of seeking out. For once, I'm not going to recommend the book, on the grounds that it's better. If you want to know what happens, pick whichever medium you like – neither is obviously better or worse.

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