Cusack carries High Fidelity with shining performance

4 Hatchets

Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? asks Rob Gordon (John Cusack, Being John Malkovich) in the beginning of High Fidelity (Touchstone Pictures). Based on Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, the story revolves around Gordon and his record store, Championship Vinyl. As Gordon looks back at his long list of failed relationships, he realizes that he is becoming that nasty `a’-word – adult.

Gordon narrates his sordid series of unsuccessful affairs, including his current girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) who may be the one. A 1980s story to the hilt, the key breakups are revealed in Gordon’s Top Five Breakups List. The top-10 list is used as a device throughout the movie to add comic relief. His tribulations number from his first crush in middle school to his idolization of a college sweetheart, his infatuation with getting some in high school and a pathetic retreat into a parasitic existence. He attempts to face up to these grim experiences, trying to move beyond the past to avoid further rejection.

In addition to Cusack, the cast features big name actresses. Joan Cusack (In and Out), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment) and Lili Taylor (The Haunting) come in and out of the picture. The various relationships between Cusack’s character and the women form the basis of the plot, a mixture of Woody Allen and Reality Bites. The soundtrack creates a setting, elevating the dialogue and setting the pace. It is one of the best features of the movie, besides the charming acting of Cusack and his two record store companions, Barry (Jack Black, Cradle Will Rock) and Dick (Todd Luiso, Jerry Maguire). Pretentious and offbeat from the contemporary music scene, these two store clerks contribute the most radical humor of the movie. They also assist in offering alternative methods for Gordon to take his mind of his eternal rejection.In many instances, it seems as if this role was created for Cusack. A classic actor from the 1980s who managed to continue going strong in the 1990s and now in 2000, he brings together three decades in one role. High Fidelity offers you a chance to go back to the best part of the 1980s – the music – without having to move too far away from today. And, don’t worry, you won’t walk away with a desire to see big bangs come back in style. High Fidelity is playing in theaters.

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