Most rock ‘n’ roll movies are like superhero flicks. A guy or girl (or sometimes a group of guys and/or girls) goes from something to nothing, battles external forces and inner demons, and suffers crushing setbacks before triumphing in the end. Give Spider-Man a guitar, and he’s basically Johnny Cash.
High Fidelity is an entirely different type of story. Released 15 years ago this week, director Stephen Frears’ big-screen adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel centers on the lowliest, least heroic characters in the rock ‘n’ roll universe: record-store clerks and their like-minded clientele.
They’re neither creators nor professional critics nor devoted fans who derive joy from following their favorite artists. They’re fickle, temperamental, obsessive collectors who define themselves by their tastes — which, in case you were wondering, are way better than yours.
High Fidelity is both a loving portrait and a cautionary tale, as main character Rob Gordon — played to lumpy, grumpy perfection by John Cusack — is a guy who knows tons about pop music and little about people. The film, like the novel, follows Rob as he reconnects with the women behind his All-Time Top 5 Breakups, a list he compiles after being dumped by Laura, the film’s female lead. Rob wants badly to find out why he’s destined to be alone, and along the way, he learns some valuable lessons.
And so do we. Ahead: The Top 5 Things We Learned from High Fidelity.
Update: Check out our full Oral History of High Fidelity, featuring interviews with Hornby, Cusack, Jack Black, and more.