Moments No. 2. Stephen Frears directs a version of Nick Hornby’s novel, relocated to Chicago with John Cusack as Rob, the owner of the struggling record store, breaking up with his girlfriend Laura (played wonderfully by the Danish actress Iben Hjejle). The Chicago version of the record store is still called “Championship Vinyl,” which can’t translate well across the Atlantic. Although set in a nominal 1990s present, High Fidelity is more an elegy for a lost 1970s and ’80s world of vinyl records and small independent stores run by fans. At heart, film and book are about growing into adulthood and accepting the pleasures of commitment.
Formally, the film’s interesting: the novel’s interior monologues are translated into speeches direct to camera; Bruce Springsteen pops up to give advice (shades of Woody Allen); some scenes replay several times in Rob’s head. Some critics found this irritating but it worked for me. No reason why mainstream cinema shouldn’t break the fourth wall.
Two moments: number one, when the neighbourhood skateboarders shoplift some records, but when they’re noticed they leave a skateboard in the shop in their rush to escape. There’s a standoff and the skateboarders put the stolen records down on the pavement. “I think you have more”, says Rob. One of the skateboarders throws down a dogeared copy of “The musician’s guide to home production.” It’s a visual gag, yes, but it’s also a joke that turns out to be a plot point.
Second: after Laura leaves, Rob rearranges his record collection. His record store colleague Dick drops by to invite him to a gig:
Dick: It guess it looks as if you’re reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?
Dick: Not alphabetical…
Dick: No fuckin’ way…
Rob: …If you want to find “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac you have to know that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 and then didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.
Dick: That sounds- –
Though I’m not sure that Rob would actually have Rumours in his record collection. Joan Cusack–who also lights up The Runaway Bride–is terrific as Laura’s fried Liz.
Script courtesy of Springfield Springield