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High Fidelity

Rated [R], 115 minutes
Starring John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black
Screenplay by D. V. DeVincentis & Steve Pink & John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg
Based on the book by Nick Hornby
Directed by Stephen Frears

IN SHORT: a passable GenX demo targeted flick

For two hours try to enjoy the new cinematic game "You Be The Therapist," as self-proclaimed [expletive + impolite euphemism for lower body part, hereafter] FA Rob Gordon (John Cusack) recounts his Top Five Most Humiliating Relationships in the wake of being dumped by current live-in flame Laura (Iben Hjejle). Perhaps in uncovering the reasons why he was dumped, he will find enlightenment and a permanent relationship. God knows it would make his weeping mother happy.

Rob runs a failing used record store and has borrowed cash from Laura, a lawyer, so there's that income insecurity to deal with, amidst all his other self-perceived problems. The man dumps his problems and revelations upon us which, by the end of the two hours and what passes for a happy ending, you may be sympathetic Rob or you may look on his continuing plight with a smug satisfaction born of passing through the kind of relationship Hell that he has experienced. Either way, you'll have no disagreement on the fact that, yes indeedy, Rob is a FA.

At least Rob is self-aware enough to realize what he is. That's not the case for his employee Barry (Jack Black) an overweight, abusive music elitist who, without deliberate intention, does his best to drive away what few customers wander in to Championship Vinyl on the North Side of Chicago. The record store itself is so empty that thoughts of television sitcom settings ran through Cranky's head. Indeed, most of the gags set inside the store are, language excepted, fit for teevee. Much meeker, but still an elitist, is co-worker Dick (Todd Louiso). The part-time pair, who show up for work full time because they have no other lives, have no girlfriends, don't seem to date or have any apparent hobbies other than a manic devotion to music and things vinyl. (Kinda like Cranky in his twenties, except for the dating and hobbies thing, which means I can almost empathize and I'm certainly amused). At least this pair have places to go in the course of this flick.

Said course will introduce us to the current whereabouts of all five of Rob's humiliators, beginning with a the hot and heavy first clutch of all, with Allison Ashmore (played at age 13 by Shannon Stillo) who strung poor Rob along for six hours over the course of three whole days, and destroyed whatever notions of respect of women his parents had tried to instill. We never see the adult Allison for reasons I won't spill, other than to say that she's not dead. There was Penny (Joelle Carter), the "nice" girl who actively refused anything more than a kiss and bedded a chem geek, who boasted of the experience, after dumping Rob. Ah, the humiliation . . . but it's nothing next to the two year relationship with Charlie Nicholson (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose beauty puts her so far beyond Robs perceived status that his inadequacies, real or perceived, push the coupling towards certain doom. Finally there is Sarah (Lili Taylor) who has been suffered mightily in her affairs. So . . it's better to sleep with another wretched soul than to sleep alone. Chicago winters being what they are (and they are all you might expect -- I've lived through 'em) keeping cozy is fine until spring fever breaks.

That brings us back to Laura, now shacked up with a "conflicts resolution counselor" named Ian (Tim Robbins). If anything, Rob's thoughts on what he'd like to do to the man who stole his gal are the funniest part of the movie. As rough as the breakup was, things just aren't settled between the two. They don't settle out in the way you'd expect 'em to. Rob at all times looks directly into the camera to explain it all to us which may help you bond with the FA or may not. Cranky settled for the smug satisfaction option, and Jack Black's character is funny enough that he wasn't bored.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to High Fidelity, he would have paid...


High Fidelity is probably Dateflick for most GenXers and they can battle over how big a jerk Rob is afterwards. For the rest of us, its fit for a smaller screen and so is at pay per view level.

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