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Film / High Fidelity

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Rob: Do you understand? I'm tired of the fantasy because it doesn't really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really...
Laura: Delivers?

The Film of the Book High Fidelity, directed by Stephen Frears. It was released in 2000.

John Cusack stars as Rob, a commitment-phobic music lover and record store owner from Chicago. After getting dumped by his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), Rob seeks out his ex-girlfriends to learn what makes him such a bad boyfriend, all the while pining for Laura and trying to win her back.

Jack Black and Todd Louiso play Rob's employees Barry and Dick; Rob's exes are played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Lili Taylor, and Joelle Carter.

A series based on the book and film was released in 2020.


  • Abortion Fallout Drama: This turns out to be one of the reasons Rob and Laura have broken up at the start of the movie. Rob explains to the audience that Laura had a Surprise Pregnancy, but before she could tell him, he cheated on her with another woman and she chose to abort and didn't tell him. Way later after they had made up, Rob made an unrelated wisecrack about them starting a family, which reduced Laura to tears; she explained about the abortion and he lost his temper at her over it.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the book, we learn Rob stole Jackie from his friend when they were dating, Jackie got married to his friend, Rob meets up with them during his tour of his romantic history, and they bore him to tears with all the talk about their kids, but in the movie, Rob simply says her their breakup didn't mean anything.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Kinky Wizards were not in the book (though Rob at one point muses upon the idea of starting a label).
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Marie LaSalle in the novel becomes Marie deSalle in the film, probably to make it sound more like Marquis de Sade.
    • The protagonist himself, Rob Fleming in the novel, was renamed Rob Gordon for the film. The latter is the name of a Real Life musician, so perhaps it's more "rock'n'roll" sounding.
    • Rob's exes Allison Ashworth and Jackie Allen were renamed as Allison Ashmore and Jackie Alden.
    • Barry's band name is also changed: both in the book and film, they are called Sonic Death Monkey, but in the book they start out as Barrytown (which Rob ridicules Barry for), something that is never mentioned in the film. At the night of the gig, Barry mentions the names Kathleen Turner Overdrive and Barry Jive and the Uptown Five in the film, and the names the Futuristics and Breakbeat in the book, for no apparent reason.
  • Adaptational Location Change:
    • The film changes the setting from London to Chicago. The writers did this because they were more familiar with the city and its alternative music scene.
  • Artist and the Band: The garage band that Barry joins starts out with the name Sonic Death Monkey, but when they open at the record release party for the Kinky Wizards, Barry announces "we're on the verge of being called Kathleen Turner Overdrive, but for tonight we are Barry Jive and the Uptown Five."
  • Aside Comment: Rob talks to the audience frequently.
  • Behind the Black: Rob is nearly hit by a skater in the street who he should have seen coming from the angle he was facing.
  • The Cameo: Bruce Springsteen appears as an apparition to Rob in the movie.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Barry points out Rob's "Cosby sweater," so The Cosby Show exists, yet no one comments on Marie La Salle's resemblance to a certain Cosby daughter.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The movie's end credits are displayed as labels on records.
  • Cultural Translation: The adaptation, relocating from London to Chicago, changes pop culture references to American ones.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • We are introduced to Barry when he barges into the store while playing air-guitar, insults his coworkers/boss, and then plays 'Walking on Sunshine' by Katrina and the Waves on the radio without realizing/caring that Rob has just broken up with Laura. His literal first words are "Holy Shi-ite!"
    • Rob introduces himself to the audience by first listening to 'You're Gonna Miss Me' by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, staring directly into the camera with an expression of abject heartbreak, and then asking "What came first? The music or the misery?" It clues us into his knowledge of music and his overall mood throughout the film, but also foreshadows how he deals (or doesn't deal) with his problems.
  • Flat Character: Barry is a much shallower character in the film than in the book. In the book, he's an obnoxious tosspot, but also extremely lonely, and bitter as a consequence. In the film, he's the Plucky Comic Relief played by Jack Black at his Jack Blackiest.
  • Foreshadowing: Laura's dad's angina, which her mother mentions on the answering machine message at the beginning, and sets off the last act of the movie.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Near the middle of the film, Ian visits Rob's store to tell him off for his (Rob's) obnoxious behavior around Laura, and Rob gets three indulgent fantasy segues in a row. The first time he loudly tells Ian off; the second time, he threatens him with violence and sends him running from the store like a coward. It culminates with a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown where Rob, Dick and Barry lay him out and crush his head with an air conditioner unit. What actually happens is Rob reacts like a sensible person and says he'll consider Ian's suggestion to drop the matter.
  • In-Universe Soundtrack: Most of the songs in the film soundtrack are played In-Universe by Rob and his employees in the record store. This includes a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" performed by Jack Black, whose character Barry sings it in the film.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Barry is such an asshole you want to just punch him in his soft, flabby, stupid face and force-feed him one of his oh-so-precious records, but he actually does care for his friends, and he pulls through for Rob's show at the end (instead of turning it into an obnoxious trainwreck like Rob was rightfully worried about).
    • While he's not as obnoxious as Barry, Rob is revealed to be arguably worse in a low-key, long-term, high-functioning kind of way. He is a selfish, insensitive, immature, all-round toxic person who objectifies the women he dates, prefers to wallow in his own misery instead of getting a grip on his life like an adult, and doesn't notice that he infects the people who love him despite himself. That said, much like Barry, he does care for his friends, and by the end of the movie seems to be making a change for the better by making a commitment to Laura (instead of chasing after the new Manic Pixie Dream Girl) and actually pursuing a career in producing music (instead of just complaining about bad music).
  • Let's Wait a While: Rob dumped Penny Hardwick because she wouldn't have sex with him, then was stunned when she slept with her next boyfriend after like three dates. When he reconnects with her, she explains that she wanted to wait until they were both adults and in college before consummating, and what happened with the other guy was borderline nonconsensual and turned her off sex until she was in her twenties.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film is much more overtly comedic and less mean-spirited than the novel.
  • Large Ham: Jack Black as Barry. "A COSBY SWEATAHHH!"
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A cute girl interviews Rob about his store and new record label. It leads Rob to realize that he has been fantasizing about girls like these his whole life, and is sick of the fantasy, much preferring the mundane, unsexy, but very real relationship he has with Laura.
  • Manly Tears: When Rob is at Laura’s dad’s funeral, and Laura bursts into tears, the camera tracks up to him in the back row of the pews and his own eyes are brimming. It’s the first time in the film that he seems genuinely sorry for someone else.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Charlie, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, is prone to the occasional sexy shot. In fact, Rob feels insecure about dating her.
  • Narration Echo: At least twice in the movie do characters repeat Rob's narration.
    Rob (about Sarah): She'd just been dumped by some asshole named Michael.
    Sarah (in the flashback): I mean, Michael was such an asshole.
  • Never My Fault: Rob is very quick to tell us about mitigating circumstances in breakups and why he isn't to blame. This makes his admission about his failings with Laura all the more poignant at the end of the film.
    Rob: I can see now I never really committed to Laura. I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things, like thinking about my future. I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing. Keep my options open. And that's suicide.
  • No Fourth Wall: Rob continuously addresses the camera. This was the way that Stephen Frears and John Cusack decided to include the massive amounts of very important and integral narration of the book.
  • Race Lift: Marie was said to resemble Susan Dey in the book, but is played by the mixed-race Lisa Bonet in the film. What's particularly amusing is that Dick's description of what she looks like in the film is identical to his description in the book, except that he appends "except, you know, black" to the end of it in the former case. Frears has explained that the reasoning behind this is that Marie is supposed to be an exotic character: for a novel set in England, a white American woman is exotic; for a film set in America...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rob admits to himself that he never really commits, always has one foot out the door, and is obsessed with living the fantasy of a new exciting relationship forever and not facing the hard work that goes into a real long term relationship.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: As Rob puts it when referring to the store's assistants Dick (an awkward, slightly creepy nerd) and Barry (an obnoxious asshole):
    "I can't fire them. I hired these guys for three days a week, and they just started showing up, every day. That was four years ago."