High Fidelity

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By Mark Ramsey | 2000/03/21

Once the Oscar hangover has passed and we’re reminded that small-screen Billy Crystal once-a-year beats big-screen Billy Crystal any day, what better time to wrap yourself in an exceptionally clever comedy that’s so well crafted it’s downright scary.

Check out this cast:

There’s mighty John Cusack who made the 80′s safe for teenhood – no matter he was 40 at the time. Hey, any guy who chooses Daphne Zuniga over Nicollette Sheridan in The Sure Thing:

A is one hell of an actor

B proves the maxim: “It’s only a movie”

Damons come and Leos go, but Cusack’s here forever, baby!

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There’s John’s super-funny and always underrated sister Joan who, with John and Lili Taylor, complete the Say Anything reunion which is almost pleasure enough.

There’s the sensational Jack Black. You don’t know Jack Black? You will. Think John Belushi with Courtney Love’s facial hair. He’s got the girth of birth and he knows how to use it.

Jack and Billy Corgan’s twin brother work with Cusack at his record store. It’s ground zero for intellectual, opinionated, music minutiae maniacal underachievers, and it’s called Championship Vinyl – that’s right, VINYL, for Chrissake. Need an LP? Just turn left at the 78′s and pass the wax cylinders. You’ll find ‘em right between the auto hand-cranks and the bake-bread-from-scratch supplies.

Come on, vinyl has as much chance of a comeback as Santana!

These guys know everything there is to know about music, except why Kevin Bacon spends so much career-time hosting game shows on VH-1. Does he get free Jessica Simpson and Hoku CDs or something?

Ironically, these record rats are oblivious to the term “mp3.” Fortunately, plans are on to build a website by the time Detroit manufactures aero-cars to park at the store’s hyperport – or when M*A*S*H reruns stop airing, whichever comes first.

What’s more, John and his crew are top-five-list-crazy. Everything has a list. One by one, John ticks ‘em off:

• Top 5 all-time breakup list

• Top 5 songs for every occasion

• Top 5 glowing adjectives used by Larry King to describe every movie ever made, except Natural Born Killers

• Top 5 redundant teen movies starring Julia Stiles

You get the idea.

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High Fidelity is all about John Cusack’s relationship crisis. In the forest of romantic confusion where most guys find ourselves most of the time, John’s girlfriend splits.

John’s girl, played by Iben Hjejle, is best known in America as a random combination of letters. Her mission is to encourage Scrabble players everywhere to throw their arms up to the heavens and shout “Oh, what’s the use!”

Who can’t love a movie where Cusack shouts at the window of ex-girlfriend number one: “Charley, you f–kin’ bitch, let’s work it out!” Who can’t empathize when he asks ex-girlfriend number two what the chance is they’ll reunite, and she answers “9 percent; we have a 9 percent chance of getting back together.” Who can’t groove on one character’s description of his babe as “a post-Partridge Family, pre-L.A. Law Susan Dey kind of thing. You know, Black.” This movie is rich, rich, rich with that kind of sharp humor.

Every rose has a thorn, the song goes, and the pricks in this movie come courtesy of pretentiously cool, one-time funky 80′s clotheshorse Lisa Bonet. Lethargic Lisa is a somber, seriouso songstress who covers Frampton tunes the way a casket covers a corpse. “Oh, Baby I Love Your Wake, Every Day.” Either Lisa’s suffering rigor mortis or she’s the new Local News Anchor – now I know why they’re called “anchors.”

Is Lisa sleepy or just hypnotized by that trance-inducing maze of fractals on Papa Cosby’s sweater?

Meet Lisa’s band: The Droopy Narcoleptics, and hear their Top 5 hits: “I’m not Michael Stipe, but I am in R.E.M.” and “Brains! Give us Brains!”

Catherine Zeta Jones is another of John’s exes – the one carrying Michael Douglas’s baby. And for perhaps the first time, Catherine’s ass is not the name above the title! She actually has a character to play this time, and she’s rather good, too!

High Fidelity is a brilliantly written, clever satire, piled high with lush characters, scads of funny stuff, and the coolest performances this side of an Oscar.

You don’t need to be an audiophile to fall in love with High Fidelity. You just need an ear for what will certainly be one of my top 5 comedies of the year.

Get into the groove and see this movie!

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