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Heroes of the Zeroes: High Fidelity

by on May 13, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“High Fidelity”
Rated R
2000

Parental-advisory stickers have it wrong. What’s really suggestive and explicit about music is its capacity to conjure as much pain as joy. Rob Gordon (John Cusack) knows that well, retreating into his favorite music as absolution for bad behavior and a justification for recalling breakups the way he wants.

Based on Nick Hornby’s seriocomic odyssey through one man’s greatest splits, 2000’s “High Fidelity” reunited John Cusack with director Stephen Frears 10 years after con drama “The Grifters.”

Love is its own flim-flam for Rob — a passive-aggressive record-store owner who’s been wronged, but has also orchestrated his share of emotional destruction. He fashions lists about his past to deflect his present, and the harmless hobby has become an emotional crutch.

Rob’s shop also is more mausoleum than moneymaker — enlivened only by snappy, seriously funny barbs traded by employees (Jack Black and Todd Louiso) who judge peoples’ pop-culture purchases. Dumped by his latest companion, Laura, Rob reaches out to past girlfriends to flesh out the “sketch of a decent sensitive guy” inside him.

In his best Zeroes performance, Cusack traced Rob’s realizations and reconciliations with resonant thoughtfulness and wit — wisely playing Rob as the worst-case scenario of Lloyd Dobler after Diane Court was done with him, resigned to life as an old, sad bastard.

For a romantic comedy, “Fidelity” bravely balled up in the darkest corners of Rob’s self-loathing, but did so to increase the eventual tenderness and cheer of him swaying in a crowd — accepted for, and accepting of, all his fickle flaws.