Review: High Fidelity

by Kim on February 25, 2009 · 10 comments

It’s hard for me to imagine imagine Rob, the main character of High Fidelity as anyone other than John Cusack because of his awesome performance in the movie version. When I picked up the book version of High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, I know I was going to want to see the movie again to compare the two.  Happily, I was equally as charmed with the book as I have always been with the movie and can enthusiastically recommend both.

High Fidelity begins with Rob, a thirtysomething British pop music junkie, trying to deal with his breakup with his live-in girlfriend Laura. Rob owns a record shop, Championship Vinyl, which he runs with the help of “the musical moron twins” Dick and Barry, and the three spend their days coming up with more and more obscure top five lists to share with one another.

Rob’s life is pretty much going nowhere, so he starts to reassess after the breakup by going back through his previous, most-memorable breakups to see what he’s done wrong.  However, when Laura’s life takes a turn for the worst, the two are shoved back together and have to decide whether to try again or just leave things alone.

Although I really enjoyed reading this book, it’s hard for me to say whether it left me feeling happy or disappointed, but give me a little space to explain before you decide whether to read the book or not. To start, I was surprised at how much I felt like I had in common with Rob (and to some extent, Laura) — things like trying to figure out where life is going, wondering about past decisions and their impact on the future, and trying to figure out what it means to be in an adult relationship with someone.

Rob and Laura’s relationship isn’t about roses and chocolates, it’s about finding someone that makes you feel comfortable and that you feel like you want to take care of. In that respect, the book isn’t as drippy and saccharine as most other stories entirely about relationships can be, which is something that I appreciated. Here’s a quote (SPOILER) that shows sort of what I mean:

That’s what I thought it was all going to be like when I was married… I thought there was going to be this sexy woman with a sexy voice and lots of sexy eye makeup whose devotion shown from every pore… I’m beginning to get used to the idea that Laura might be the person I spend my life with, I think… But it’s much harder to get used to the idea that my little-boy notion of romance, of negligees and candlelit dinners at home and long, smoldering glances, has no basis in reality at all.

In some ways, it made me happy to read a book that takes adult relationships honestly, but in other ways is sort of made me sad because I’m not as old as Rob and don’t feel quite a ready to give up on the whole romantic idea. Not to say that I have to because of reading this book, just that portrayal of relationships in High Fidelity seems more real to me, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that realness, if that makes any sense.  Any disappointment I felt when finishing the story had nothing to do with how well-written or funny the book was, only my interpretation of the story and my relationship to relationships (ha ha :) ).

Right after I finished the book, my friend Kimberly and I decided to watch the movie version of High Fidelity starting John Cusack as Rob, plus Jack Black and Barry and Tim Robbins as Ian (my two personal favorites).  I’d seen the movie before, so it was sort of like coming home to an old friend.  I think Cusack is fantastic as Rob — his long monologues to the camera are spot on.  Black and Robbins were great in their roles, as was Todd Lousio as Dick.  We were both impressed as how faithfully the the screenplay followed the book, all the way down to exact conversations in that took place at Championship Vinyl.

I don’t think I could pick whether I liked the book of movie better.  I think I sympathize with Rob more in the book, but the movie is charming and funny in its own way.  I’d recommend both book and movie for readers/viewers that enjoy quirky characters and stories full of pop culture references, but only if you’re ready for a story that doesn’t treat romance like a Disney movie.

Thoughts on High Fidelity: The Book versus High Fidelity: The Movie?  What do you think of the protrayal of relationships in the book or movie?  Realistic or unrealistic?  Depressing or comfortable?  Has Disney created unrealistic expectations about love that a book like High Fidelity could remedy?

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