Dir: Stephen Frears. US. 2000. 113 mins.
Prod cos: Working Title Films, Touchstone Pictures in association with Dogstar Films & New Crime Productions. Worldwide dist: Buena Vista/Buena Vista International. Exec prods: Mike Newell, Alan Greenspan, Lisa Chasin. Prods: Tim Bevan, Rudd Simmons. Co-prods: DV DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack. Scr: DeVincentis, Pink & Cusack, Scott Rosenberg, based on the novel by Nick Hornby. DoP: Seamus McGarvey. Prod des: David Chapman, Therese DePrez. Ed: Mick Audsley. Mus: Howard Shore. Main cast: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins, Joelle Carter.
For all the purist fury at the fact that the film version of High Fidelity was being transposed from Holloway to Chicago, the result is both remarkably faithful to Nick Hornby's best-selling London novel in tone and style and a smart and entertaining movie in its own right. A lot of its success has to do with the winning performance of John Cusack who also co-wrote and co-produced with his Grosse Pointe Blank collaborators DeVincentis and Pink.
Speaking to camera for much of the running time, Cusack creates an engaging portrait in male insecurity and selfishness as flawed record shop owner Rob Gordon. Forever perplexed at his failed love life - his latest girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) is leaving him as the movie begins - he recalls his previous relationships in an effort to discover why he is always abandoned. But revisiting his exes (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor among them), both in his mind and in person, only makes him face his own failings and face up to his love for Laura.
Although there is no "story" as such, it's a hugely enjoyable entertainment, skilfully directed by Frears who keeps a fine balance between the humorous asides and the case in point (ie how will Rob win back Laura). Only towards the end does it start to feel stretched - 113 minutes is pushing it.
Young adults who embraced the book will do likewise with the movie. It won't break any box office records - its opening weekend gross in the US was a solid $6.4m - but it will catch on quickly and build a loyal and lasting fan base, especially in English-language territories where the nuances of the dialogue will be better appreciated. The ensemble cast including Jack Black and Todd Louiso as Rob's shop staff, the wonderful Hjejle (a fine American accent from the Danish star of Mifune), Joan Cusack as her best friend Liz, Zeta-Jones as a jumped-up bitch from Rob's past and Tim Robbins as Laura's pony-tailed new love interest are a pleasure to watch.