In Derp Blog Into Darkness, I take a plunge into the deep with movies I’ve never seen or in some cases never even heard of, with the only common thread throughout being that they were purchased by my partner in the years after the break with her religious upbringing. This gives me a range from mainstream comfort food to more daring, “rebellious” stuff.
HIGH FIDELITY came out in 2000, which sounds like this century because the year starts with a 2, but it is actually a million years ago. I’m guessing it’s Sumerian reckoning or something. John Cusack owns a “record store” where they “sell records” and he whines about his ex-girlfriends for whom he made a bunch of “mixed tapes”. I dunno, maybe readers who actually speak ancient Sumerian can translate these crucial plot points for me in the comments.
Cusack’s just been dumped by his girlfriend Laura for reasons altogether hilariously horrible*, and now he is recounting his Top Five Break-Ups in an intermittent fourth-wall-breaking movie-long soliloquy. Throughout the movie, we see that Cusack and his two “record store” buddies (Jack Black and a guy that sorta looks like The Magistrate from True Blood but isn’t) enjoy making Top Five Lists, but disparage each other for putting good things at number one. Jack Black jokingly suggests Cusack MAY AS WELL PUT THE BEATLES AT #1 at one point. I realized these characters were… were… last century hipsters!
After getting to know the Top Five Break-Ups in Cusack’s life in a flashback montage (Justified fans: Joelle Carter is #2! Regular people: Catherine Zeta-Jones is #3! Jan de Bont’s THE HAUNTING fans: Lily Taylor is #4!), Cusack contacts them all to find out why exactly he got dumped those previous four times. He finds out that it somehow wasn’t his fault in any of those cases and proceeds to go win back Laura, #5.
In the film’s most darkly hilarious joke, Joelle Carter says she didn’t dump him at all. Sixteen year old Cusack left her cuz she wasn’t giving it up soon enough. When Cusack rebuts with the rumors he heard that she gave it up to the next guy, she counters that “[she] was tired of fighting. It wasn’t rape cuz I said okay, but it might as well have been.” Then she runs away crying. Cusack ponders this for a microsecond, turns to the camera and blankly goes, “Okay, so that one wasn’t my fault either. This is going great! Next up, #3!”
I was often reminded of SCOTT PILGRIM during the movie, as both are about douchebags who get up out of their funk and learn to be less of a douchebag. I’ll admit that PILGRIM has a bit of an edge on HF, since in one of the flashbacks Cusack says he was 26. Let’s say that he’s in his early thirties for the main narrative which is just… really? A thirty-something guy saying the new boyfriend “doesn’t love you” and other shit like that? At least Scott Pilgrim had the excuse of being 22!
But what actually makes the movie more bearable to me than SCOTT PILGRIM is that there’s also a dash of Black Books in there. The movie is obviously quite aware of the human monsters Cusack and Black are, and mocks them relentlessly throughout. A confrontational scene with Laura’s boyfriend (a hilariously greasy Tim Robbins) ends with five different what-ifs, all escalating in badassery, showing us how Cusack would have liked to have handled it. Of course, the reality has sleazy Tim Robbins telling him off and Cusack just meekly taking it. There is also a fantasy scene where STEAMING Cusack imagines long-haired Robbins fucking Laura which had me absolutely rolling.
The movie ends with a very weird “lesson learned”, to the point where I’m not sure if it’s meant to be darkly comic or a genuine life lesson. The exchange is basically:
Cusack: “I should stop flitting about from woman to woman. Once you date someone for long enough, the mystery and excitement vanishes, and the next person you’re not with will take that place. And so on and so on! I should stop jumpin’ rocks and just settle!”
Laura: “… okay fine. I’ll take it.”
It basically has Cusack saying EH! GOOD ENOUGH and the ladywoman taking it! I enjoyed the movie, but it is not unlike an emotional BAD BOYS 2. Make merry with those that deem HIGH FIDELITY “funny but fucked up”; speak gently to those that “were totally in that same place, like three years ago, man” for they are dogs and sorcerers.
P.S. the ONE time the characters engage in cinematic rather than music nerdery, they get it wrong. You cannot complain about Bruce Campbell making shotgun shells with 14th century technology in EVIL DEAD 2! That was ARMY OF DARKNESS! Now I’m unsure about all the other trivia in the movie – The Jesus & Mary Chain probably ISN’T a continuation of Echo & the Bunnymen!
*Unwittingly knocked her up, wittingly cheated on her, said infidelity caused her to get an abortion, says he’s not feelin’ the relationship – Laura breaks it off. Blowback Cusack gets from this? His sister (hi Joan) calls him a fuckin’ asshole.