High Fidelity

Nick Hornby's popular British novel has been refocused from slackers in London to slackers in Chicago, John Cusack's home town, and what do you know – it's John Cusack!

In this film, Cusack plays a thirtysomething schlub named Rob, a not terribly with-it kind of guy who runs a barely-alive used record store, employs a couple of losers (the very funny Todd Louiso and Jack Black, a Laurel and Hardy for the 21st century), and has just been dumped by his most recent girlfriend (Iben Hjejle, a Danish-born ringer for Patricia Arquette). Since Rob, like his music-snob pals, is an obsessive list maker ("top five songs to play at my funeral;" "top five dream jobs I'd like to have"), getting dumped inspires him to concoct a list of his top five breakups and track each ex-girlfriend down to find out just what went wrong.

I should note that Cusack spends much of the movie talking directly to the camera, a la Ferris Bueller. At first it comes across as actorly, smug – just as the movie's initial laddishness carries a misogynistic tone – but over time, the characters slowly reveal their depths, and several sad, funny, and familiar truths about contemporary romantic relationships start hitting home. So in the end I quite enjoyed High Fidelity.

I do have one beef with the film, however: Cusack and company constantly engage in typical music fan oneupmanship, but the music they listen to is hardly edgy: Stereolab, Massive Attack, Belle & Sebastian, etc. For those of us who know actual music snobs, who are more likely to carry on about Wire, Mission of Burma, or the Mekons, it feels dumbed-down. (And even dumber for those who'd dismiss those three bands I just named as "too mainstream".) I also have a slight quibble with the distraction of so many well-known actors in minor roles – Tim Robbins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, etc. – but they're all fine in those roles, so it's forgivable.