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Featured Blu-ray Review: High Fidelity

August 5th, 2012

High Fidelity - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

High Fidelity has the same writing team as Grosse Point Blank, it was based on a book by Nick Hornby, and was directed by Stephen Frears. That's a damn good pedigree. However, it only managed fifth place during its opening weekend and while it had good legs and eventually showed a healthy profit, a lot of people were expecting more. Does it deserve to be seen by more? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

The film begins with Rob Gordon addressing the camera asking what came first: The music or the misery. He's miserable at the moment because his girlfriend, Laura, is leaving him. He compiles a list of the top five most humiliating break-ups: Alison Ashmore, Penny Hardwich, Jackie Alden, Charlie Nicholson, and Sarah Kendrew. We then get a blow-by-blow of these break-ups, inter-spaced with what is happening in the present day.

What is happening in the present day? Rob spends his days at his record shop, Championship Vinyl, with his two employees, Dick and Barry. All three of them are, what you politely describe as, Music Snobs. They spend more time making fun of their customers' taste in music than selling records. And of course, they compile loads of top five lists. Rob also dissects what went wrong with Laura and decides the only way to figure this out is to talk to every woman in the top five break-up list and find out where their relationships went wrong. When he tries to get in contact with Alison Ashmore he learns from her mother that she married her first boyfriend, Kevin Bannister. The guy she dumped Rob for in seventh grade, she married. This is great news for Rob, because he realizes the first time he was dumped, it wasn't his fault. It was fate. He wants to learn more about the rest of his ex-girlfriends. He thinks it will give him closure and make him feel clean. He thinks it will give him a chance to move on. Will it work out that way?

There is a common complaint against Indie comedies that are too heavy on quirkiness. It is as if filmmakers think adding quirky characters is a substitute for actual humor and a real plot. Films like High Fidelity is part of the reason this is a problem. The film is filled with quirky characters, but the filmmakers also created characters that rise above their quirkiness to become very real. It looks so smooth and easy to do, that too many other filmmakers try. Fortunately, the filmmakers here have the talent to pull it off. There's an authenticity in this film that rises to the surface. Rob Gordon has more character development in this movie than most characters would have in a dozen Indie comedies. (Although his ability to learn is frustratingly slow at times.) This is partially due to the quality of the original novel and the strength of the script. John Cusack helped adapt the novel, so he really understands his character and his performance is stellar. However, the film also boasts a lot of great supporting characters. Obviously Iben Hjejle is key to this film's success, but it is easy to forget that this was a very early role for Jack Black. His energy and Todd Louiso's introversion create a very nice balance. In fact, I could go through the entire cast and praise their performances.

The Extras

After reviewing three featureless Blu-rays in a row, this one actually has extras. Granted, it is just 26 minutes in interviews and nine deleted scenes with a total running time of 14 minutes, but at least it is something. The movie was never a visual feast, but the film looks good on high definition with high level of details, strong colors, deep blacks. There are a lot of darkly lit scenes in the movie, and these don't have the same level as the brightly lit outdoor scenes, but they also are not a weakness either. You don't see excess grain or crushing in the shadows. There are no signs of digital manipulation or compression issues. The audio is clear, but mostly uncomplicated. This is a dialogue driven film, so clarity is the most important issue. The surround sound speakers get used a lot for the music and the subwoofer adds heft here as well, but don't expect a lot of dynamics. Finally, the Blu-ray only costs $13, which is a reasonable price.

The Verdict

John Cusack earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance here and shared in a WGA nomination for writing. However, I'm a little surprised High Fidelity didn't do better during Awards Season. I guess it was released too early in the year for that. The Blu-ray is good, but not great in terms of extras and technical presentation, but for just $13, it is worth picking up over just renting.

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