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review added: 9/28/00



High Fidelity
2000 (2000) - Touchstone (Buena Vista)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

High Fidelity Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B+

Specs and Features

114 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:38:44, at the start of chapter 27), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 filmed conversations - one with star/co-writer/co-producer John Cusack and the other with director Stephen Frears (5 chapters each), 9 deleted scenes, theatrical trailers for High Fidelity and Mission to Mars, home video trailers for Deuce Bigalow and Scream 3, film-themed menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Sometimes I got so bored of trying to touch her breasts that I would try to touch her between her legs. It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for fifty grand instead."

"From The Guys Who Brought You Grosse Pointe Blank," High Fidelity is an ultra-hip movie look into relationships and commitments. Rob (John Cusack) is the thirty-something owner of a small specialty record store in Chicago, with a vast knowledge of college radio music from the last several decades. Fresh on the heels of his most recent breakup, Rob begins to question the problems with his love life, namely his issues with commitment. Through a series of very entertaining monologues with the camera, Rob begins to unravel his "Top 5 Most Memorable Breakups" which shed light onto his attitudes and notions about the opposite sex. The reason for this introspective journey is Laura (Iben Hjejle), Rob's most recent and toughest breakup. Rob must discover "the truth" about his relationship issues if he is to win back Laura, who he knows is the best and most real thing in his life.

High Fidelity concentrates on a very common fear for men: the fear of commitment. Being a rather universal theme, this film has the ability to speak to both men and women alike, and be incredibly funny and touching at the same time. Cusack turns in one of his more upright and true performances, punctuated by his pensive speech to Laura about what he has realized about himself and his feelings toward settling down (found in chapter 27). More honest words have never been spoken, and Cusack delivers them with genuine poise and sincerity.

Supporting Cusack are young, talented actors that I hope to see a lot more of in the near future. Jack Black steals the film as Barry, a sort-of employee of Rob's store, whose raw, biting attitude and sense of humor are completely infectious. Black slams his way through this movie with cutting deliveries and amazing body language, and usually acts as the outrageous funnyman to Cusack's more deadpan brand of comedy. Danish actress Iben Hjejle is a wonderful newcomer to American films, and portrays the character of Laura with as much honesty and sincerity as Cusack's Rob. During Rob's speech in chapter 27, Hjejle uses her face to express more emotion and understanding than any words that could have been scripted. This is a very talented young actress folks, and one I know we'll be hearing more about soon. Todd Louiso is also funny as Dick, another would-be employee of the store, who seems completely mild mannered until... well, but don't be fooled by appearances. Rounding out the cast are impressive cameos by no less than Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins, Lili Taylor, Sara Gilbert, and yes, even The Boss... Bruce Springsteen himself. Add an outstanding soundtrack of 80s and 90s alternative classics, and you've got a winner.

High Fidelity makes its debut on DVD in anamorphic widescreen with a very pleasing visual presentation. Colors, black level, and detail are all very convincing. The image is sharp, but suffers from a slight amount of video noise and compression artifacting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack superbly recreates the many songs highlighted in the film. Since music is a key component to the story, a decent presentation is necessary to catch the nuances of the tunes for the characters, and that's what you get here. Dialog always sounds clear, and rear channel activity is convincing and tasteful. The audio isn't overpowering or gimmicky - just a simple, yet effective experience that will help you enjoy the movie even more.

Yes... once again, on this disc we get the requisite Buena Vista sales pitch for other DVD titles before the main menu screen even appears. Expect to see trailers for Mission to Mars, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Scream 3. Luckily, most DVD players can skip this intrusion with the chapter advance button on the remote. On the bright side, Buena Vista did decide to include some interesting and worthwhile supplements to this disc. There are two separate "conversations": one with star/co-writer/co-producer John Cusack, and the other with director Stephen Frears. Each conversation is broken into five subjects, with their own chapter entries from a menu screen. While this is convenient in order to go back and find a specific topic, there is no way to play all five subjects back-to-back, forcing you to hit the "enter" button ten times to hear both interviews completely. Both sets run for about 10-15 minutes each, and contain good insight on the transformation of Nick Hornby's book into the movie, casting, locations, the music, and more. This is the next best thing to a commentary track. But the highlight of the supplements is definitely the nine deleted scenes. About 95% of the time, deleted scenes have been rightfully deleted as they add nothing to the story and/or just slow down the pace of the movie too much. Not so here. While not completely necessary to the outcome of the story, the scenes are still as good as anything else in the final cut, and feature small, but notable cameo appearances by Harold Ramis and Beverly D'Angelo. Thanks, Buena Vista for including them! The film's theatrical trailer is also available.

A delightful little film, High Fidelity contains that just-right blend of romance, comedy, honest performances, and quirky characters. The technical presentation is pleasing, and Buena Vista has done right by adding some meaningful and entertaining extras. Give it a try, because I think you'll really like this film a lot.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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