John Cusack was on a roll with the dark comedies towards the end of the 90s with movies like Pushing Tin and Grosse Point Blank. When 2000 hit he continued the trend with High Fidelity. This movie seems a bit more personal, and far more dark than comedy. Don't get me wrong, Jack Black and a hippie Tim Robbins certainly made some laughs, but there's nothing about failed relationships and needing to realize one's path in life.
Now this dark comedy has made its way to Blu-ray, and let's see if the format brightened things up a bit.
Rob Gordon's (Cusack) semi-failing record store isn't the only thing in his life that's floundering. When his longtime girlfriend walks out on him, Rob's needle skips the love groove, and he is forced to examine his past romantic failures in his own unique way.
When this movie first hit the scene in 2000, I wasn't too sure about it. It was marketed as this wacky, laugh out loud sort of affair, and quite frankly it was the opposite. I didn't care for it much then, but as time drudged on in this reviewer's life, I learned a bit more about relationships and being an adult, so I thought I would give it another go.
What I found in High Fidelity is an incredibly intelligent film about a man named Rob, who had stalled in his life. He reached a crossroads and instead of making a choice on what direction to take, he decided to sit at the crossroads and relax. He never moved forward or backwards, which is bad. Because of this non-action, Cusack's Rob lost the love of his life. Having Rob go through the stages of denial, anger and then looking within simply made sense, as it is the natural order of things in real life. You understand why he needs to go back and see what went wrong with his previous relationships, which eventually point him to the direction that he… well, had no direction.
The intelligent portion of this film shines from his discovery of himself, of his friends and of all the corrections he needs to make to get on with his life and move forward. Again, this is an incredibly intelligent film about self-realization and repair. Sure the ending is a bit predictable, but it's properly done. He puts his life back together, but still maintains that 'Rob' factor, which is tough to do in movies like this. Cusack is still Rob, and his character only changes to move forward, not to actually 'change' persona. It's a proper, more 'real' way for his character to morph from loser to winner, and most Hollywood films of this type never take that road.
What's remarkable about this transformation is that the audience won't side with Rob as the victim. Director Stephen Frears and John Cusack make it that way. He's a flawed man, who is blaming the world for his problems. It's a non-Hollywood take on this sort of thing. Maybe this is why I didn't love it the first time around, as I certainly couldn't fully appreciate what Frears and Cusack were trying to do. I'll say it again, it's darn intelligent. When Rob finally starts putting the pieces in place, the transformation from loser to winner starts making sense. You understand why he has to do what he has to do. He must break himself completely down to properly put himself back together, even if that means revealing some ugly truths. This is all the 'dark' part of the film, by the way.
Having said that, the comedy does come in when it needs to come in. When things start to get too serious, Jack Black and crew enter the scene to liven it up a bit. Be it berating customers, surprising people at concerts or just daydreaming about beating the snot out of Tim Robbins' Ian, the comedy is used when it needs to be used. I like dark comedies like that, as one shouldn't overshadow the other; rather they should compliment each other.
The film is brilliant, and I change me initial stance on it. Cusack and crew knock this lost love story out of the ballpark. The movie keeps you interested for the entire ride, and you can't complain much about it. Hell, it might even make you want to better your life as well.
Now, as for the Blu-ray, it looks sharp. The film was definitely well preserved and it shows. The drab, off colors of the dying 90s come through in a crisp, clean and sharp way. You don't get much grain or artifacts with this one, and there isn't any color banding. It is a healthy transfer, though a little flawed. The movie is mostly dark, so there isn't a lot of chance for HD issues here.
The sweetest part of the film on Blu-ray is the 5.1 DTS-HD. Anyone who knows anything about this movie, knows that the soundtrack is gold! Enjoy the music in your surroundings. The film comes to you in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
As for features, you get some solid commentary from John Cusack and Stephen Frears and some deleted scenes. I wish there was a gag reel attached, but I'm kind of glad there isn't. The movie deserves to be taken seriously, and a gag reel might have hurt that a bit. Still, I wish there was a 'making of' or something else to really bolster the special features section.