All time top reasons why this list obsessed comedy features in Dirk Malcolm’s greatest films since Star Wars?
1) The book upon which it is based by journo-turned-author Nick Hornby was incredibly influential on me in the late 1990s. There is something disarmingly charming about Hornby’s novel, there is much art in his artlessness, and he single handedly created a genre of popular fiction for men. What I liked about his particular brand of ‘dick-lit’ is that he wasn’t writing about criminals, holigans and/or the SAS, instead he was writing affectionally about consuming popular passions. He made his name with FEVER PITCH about his relationship with Arsenal football club, it was also made into a film in 1997 and then remade in 2005. However, I could relate more to HIGH FIDELITY, published in 1995, the line about how list-making is a substitute for having an opinion, is one of my favourites.
2) The character of Rob is complex, and Frears captures the conflict perfectly, as Cusack is annoying and sympathetic by turns. Using the extended soliloquy as a device is a bold move, as the to-the-camera pieces are risky, however he just about pulls it off by the use of self deprecation. He is blind to the reasons why he can’t hold down a relationship – his self-obsession, his narrow terms of reference and his bad haircut – yet at the same time he shows an affection for his friends and good taste in music. Much was made about how the action was transferred from London to Chicago. It works perfectly and shows how there is a universal snobbery within these places. Jack Black refuses to sell customers music that they want as they are not worthy. During a recent screening, Dom Dirk and I laughed the most at the moment when the shop crowd confuse Stiff Little Fingers for Green Day.
3) The cast. Frears has a good track record of getting really good performances from female actors. Here, all of them need to make the best of what little the script offers them. Danish actor Iben Hjejle in particular is great at counter balancing the selfishness of Cussak’s character as Laura who has apparently jilted him for a hippy neighbour (Tim Robbins with his tongue in his cheek) with a considered performance. I have recently seen her in Lars Von Trier‘s THE BOSS OF IT ALL (2006) and she has a real flair for dead pan comedy, however Frears gives her a more sensitive role. The other women that he has broken up with are also intriguing: Catherine Zeta Jones is sexy but boring and Lisa Bonnet is skeletal but exciting. Jack Black just about steals the film. Irritating but true.
4) For the record. In the book, Rob’s all time favourite films are: 1) The Godfather 2) The Godfather Part II 3) Taxi Driver 4) Goodfellas 5) Reservoir Dogs
5) Bruce Springsteen makes an appearance in the film as Rob’s mentor. Thanks Boss.