High Fidelity (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stephen Frears
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 114 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 20.00
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Review Date: August 4, 2012
When girl friend Laura (Iben Hjejle) has finally had enough of her incommunicative, often thoughtless boyfriend Rob Gordon (John Cusack), she leaves abruptly, launching Rob into an intense period of self evaluation where he goes back over the five great loves of his life and his subsequent break-ups with each of them to see if any of them can shed any light on what went wrong with Laura. Employees at his record store Barry (Jack Black) and Dick (Todd Louiso) with their own problems with interpersonal relationships don’t offer any clues, and Rob even tries reconnecting with his old flames to search for answers but to no avail. Women continue to be a mystery to him.
The setting in the novel by Nick Hornby has been transplanted in the movie from London to Chicago by co-writers D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg, but this story of difficult relationships in a madly self-involved world rings true for any locale. It’s a film about lists, and Rob, breaking the fourth wall to talk constantly to the audience to the obliviousness of everyone around him, has a list concerning just about every aspect of his life. You want a list of the top five songs to be played at his funeral: just ask. The writers and director Stephen Frears aren’t afraid to show their protagonist at his most selfish, clueless, and cruel, and his pursuit to win back his lost love after she’s taken up with a fellow attorney played in sleazy hippy-dippy style by Tim Robbins rings constantly true (even down to almost blowing everything he’d gained in a last reel bit of tomfoolery). There’s even a merry fantasy sequence when Rob and his two employees accost Laura’s new love in Rob’s record store with several dire fates for the poor slob. But Frears, who directed John Cusack in the magnificent The Grifters a decade earlier, knows well the ugly side of human interaction (see also his films My Beautiful Launderette, Prick Up Your Ears, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Queen) and isn’t afraid to show most of the characters in less than glowing lights.
Talking directly to the audience is a tricky proposition in a film, but John Cusack pulls it off deftly and suggests a gradual transformation from a petty narcissist to someone approaching something akin to adulthood in fine fashion. Jack Black as usual pushes things to the limit with his unbridled performance (Cusack cuffs him around in a couple of bits to great effect), but he gets his chance to surprise with a climactic singing performance which must have led to his School of Rock a couple of years later. Todd Louiso makes a lovably timid and meekly nondescript third tip to the buddy triangle. Iben Hjejle is a fetching Laura, lovely and poised and someone to be prized making Rob’s treatment of her all the more unforgivable. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor have only a couple of scenes apiece as former loves of Rob’s, but they make the most of their limited opportunities. Less impressive is Lisa Bonet who plays a rock singer who has a one night stand with Rob but who fades into the background compared to the star power of those who surround her.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from a soft shot or two, the image quality is rather stunning throughout with outstanding sharpness and color that is dialed in to perfection. Contrast is also exactly right to emphasize details in the foreground and background. Black levels are sensationally deep and impressive. The film has been divided into 29 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix handles the heavy mix of pop, rock, and soul music on the soundtrack with great dexterity throughout the soundstage. Elsewhere, however, there isn’t much ambience from the streets, shops, and apartments of Chicago to be found in the surround channels apart from one rainstorm. Dialogue, apart from Lisa Bonet’s tendency to mumble, is nicely recorded and has been tracked firmly to the center channel.
All featurettes are presented in 480i.
John Cusack answers a series of questions in an 11-minute featurette covering such topics as his thoughts about the director, the use of music in the movie, his co-stars, the adaptation of the book into a film script, and his feelings about his own role.
Director Stephen Frears converses for 14 ½ minutes about his previous work, his directorial techniques, the change of locale from book to film, his casting for the movie, and the use of music in the film, much of it unknown to him.
There are nine deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 14 ¼-minute group.
The theatrical trailer runs for 2 ¼ minutes.
There are 1080p promo trailers for Frankenweenie, The Avengers, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
4/5 (not an average)
High Fidelity has a harder edge than the typical romantic comedy, but that’s what makes it unique and well worth watching. The Blu-ray boasts sterling picture and sound and offers the ported-over bonus features from the DVD release. Recommended!