"High Fidelity" is a film that deserved a wider audience. Released in the final week of March to good reviews, the film didn't get much of a push, and faded fairly quickly. The film pulls off a double play that's not always easy and even less frequently seen in movies lately - the film not only has dialogue that's smart and funny, but great characters that are fully written and completely likable. John Cusack's performance is easily one of his best, as well.
Cusack plays Rob, a record store owner and music fanatic whose girlfriend Laura("Mifune"'s Iben Hjelje) has just left him. This sends him into memories about the top 5 break-ups that he's had throughout his life (with girlfriends played by such actresses as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor). In fact, the majority of his life is based around the "top 5" lists that he consistently shares with his two fellow employees Barry(the scene-stealing Jack Black) and Dick(Todd Louiso).
There really isn't a structured plot; the film mainly is Cusack's Rob serving as tour guide through the troubles that have served as obstacles in his finding the "one", which Laura might have been. The scenes in the store are definitely the highlights though - with Barry going after the customers who don't share his taste in music (with a very funny scene in the trailer). It's an extremely funny performance by Jack Black that's easily one of his best.
And although Cusack talks to the camera a bit too much, the relationships and dialogue feel very natural and very realistic. At the center of it all, is Rob, wondering why things never seem to last with the women in his life, and wondering just what it is he's done wrong, with music as the soundtrack for his life. The film also uses Chicago locations perfectly. Rather than just sort of skimming over places and making them feel generic, "Fidelity" takes real locations and makes them feel...well, real. The only real wrong step the movie takes is Tim Robbins, whose character is a little too goofy.
Based on the novel of the same name (which I'll admit that I have not yet read), "High Fidelity" is a very well-done romantic comedy/drama that is fun and entertaining, as well as very well-written.
VIDEO: Buena Vista presents "High Fidelity" in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is generally very good, showing that the studio is improving at least slightly in the quality of their efforts. While not outstanding work, this is good stuff - sharpness is good; some scenes seem to have slight softness, but not terribly so. Detail is solid and clarity is never lacking. Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (the hilarious "Big Tease", also from this year) captures the Chicago locations well.
The presentation runs into a couple of problems besides slight softness; trace amounts of pixelation appear a couple of times, and there are one or two instances of print flaws in the form of slight marks - nothing I found too distracting.
Colors are natural and accurate, looking vibrant and warm throughout the movie. Black level is generally good, and flesh tones are natural. This is a good presentation for much of the film, but it's too bad that it couldn't have looked great instead of looking just good.
SOUND: One would expect good sound from a movie called "High Fidelity", and thankfully, the movie delivers. While the great majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there is a great soundtrack full of classic pop and rock tunes that are presented terrifically, booming through the soundtrack with great clarity. Surrounds aren't used a whole lot, with the exception of the music.
Otherwise, the film offers clear and natural dialogue and is very dialogue driven. Great music score, though.
MENUS:: As usual, Buena Vista's menus are bland and basic, with no animation.
Deleted Scenes: There are 9 deleted scenes included here; they all look very good (not in rough form) and some of them actually are pretty interesting - the only reason I can really think that some of these were taken out is simply the filmmakers thought that the running time was already a bit too long. Most of these scenes are fairly short - about a minute or so a piece. Still, they're here and they're entertaining. Worth a look.
Conversations With...: There are two choices here - John Cusack or director Stephen Frears. Pleasantly, the interviews have also been broken up into topics to choose from; with Cusack, you'll find - "an actor's director", "music and memories", "Barry and Dick", "122 pages" and "an imperfect hero". With Frears you'll find: "a sense of direction", "from London to Chicago", "facing the music", "script to screen" and "casting is everything". These interviews are generally a few minutes long each and are a mixture of behind-the-scenes footage, clips and talk from both Cusack and Frears.
Trailer: Full-screen and Dolby 2.0 - the theatrical trailer.
Final Thoughts: With this and "Grosse Pointe Blank" Cusack has made two really wonderful movies in a row. Although I wish Buena Vista's DVD effort was a little better overall, the movie is still great and definitely recommended.
The Film A-
Video 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Audio: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: A-
DVD GRADE: B