Many moons ago, I fondly remember picking up Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity for the first time. From the opening page, I wondered if the author had secretly been following me around and documenting my life in excruciatingly sordid detail. High Fidelity was the first book I can remember reading and being pissed off that I didn’t write first. When the film came out, well, let’s just say it still holds a very special place in my heart.
Hulu recently released a reboot of the book/movie High Fidelity so I figured who better to write a review than somebody who has read the book (twice) and seen the movie at least fifty times. The framed movie poster hangs in my spare room to this day.
I’m not sure what sparked the desire to re-do the book/movie into a Hulu series but there were some heavy hitters that played a part in its production. Questlove of Roots fame is an executive producer as is Hornby and its lead actress. They revamped an old troubled tale while still holding true to its core: a musically-obsessed protagonist struggling with life and love while creating his (or in the current series, her) own soundtrack along the way. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?
The series stars Zoe Kravitz, whose father is a rock star and whose mom (a rock star in her own right) starred in the original film. Zoe, who plays Rob, our protagonist now in female form, wanders around New York City stumbling from bad relationship to bad relationship and proceeds, just as the Robs from print and film who preceded her, to discover why she is doomed to be rejected and make bad life decisions. It’s a long, comical, depressing, introspective journey in which our anti-hero hopes to mesh the soundtrack to her life with someone else’s… if only she knew what that was. Therein lies the rub.
The ten-episode series features countless lines, scenes and musical references that often run verbatim to the original story, which was fine by me. High Fidelity lovers get to experience, albeit in slightly different form, the joy of misery a third time around.
Zoe, was the perfectly sensible choice to replay the dark and brooding Rob as best she can in true Cusack fashion. As in the original, she breaks down the fourth wall, discussing top five everythings while fruitlessly deciphering why all her relationships end up a hot mess. Spoiler alert: it’s because she’s a hot mess.
David H. Holmes and Davine Joy Randolph play her bumbling record store co-workers and have big shoes to fill as Todd Louiso and Jack Black were near flawless in the original. While Black’s role is a tough copy, the banter in the record shop between employees and customers remains light-hearted and musically snobbish. They still ridicule people for their musical taste (or lack thereof) and refuse to sell them records despite the fact you get the feeling the store could really use the cash. The principles within the not-so-friendly confines of Championship Vinyl remain far more important than the horrors of ever selling out.
Hornby’s modern Fidelity flips the script for the 2020s: there are no mix tapes but rather playlists. As noted, a female plays the main character. This go-round is also far more liberal sexually than the original yet equally as dysfunctional. The vinyl, however, remains the most uncredited and likeable character in the story. You might want to have your Shazam app ready, you’re going to need it.
Any High Fidelity super-geek (raises hand) will appreciate the similarities and might even resent (again, raises hand) some of the differences. To be honest, I’m still trying to process how I felt when I heard the series was going to be redone but I watched. In fact, I powered through seven straight episodes in one sitting because I’m such a fan and was curious to see how they pulled it off. New faces, same (or similar) characters now exist in some parallel universe where fortunately, the music still rocks and the relationships still roll.
Kravitz like Cusack, is sullen, internally depressed and musically obsessed while she tries to figure out what she wants out of life. As one would expect, with Questlove having a heavy hand in the musical selection, the soundtrack is wrought with choice musical selections that fit in quite nicely.
For the current generation who might not have caught the original but can still relate to its plight, the reboot will introduce an entirely new group of forlorn, love-lost music geeks to the brilliance of Hornby’s masterpiece. Here’s hoping so as it’s a story worth re-telling, even if there’s no conceivable way it could live up to the original. Heck, I can even see a younger generation falling in love with the series, looking back at the film and finding it out of touch, as sacrilegious as that might seem to those who fell in love with it in the first place.
Watching High Fidelity III, if you will, brought up some really special feelings about what the book and movie meant to me. If you are a fan of the film, I recommend giving it a shot with an open mind just to see how carefully those who created it wanted to add a modern spin. You can tell those in creative control felt so deeply for the original, they knew to tread lightly on a work that meant so much to so many.
While in several ways, the series falls short of the film (biased) I’m not going to pan it because it adds something new. It remains a beautiful work about finding someone to love all the while discovering how to love oneself, with hopefully some incredible music to fill in the gaps.
The series is not the movie despite its parallels. To reboot such a heartfelt classic definitely treads on dangerous ground but Hornby’s is a timeless story that’s meant to be shared. I’m not sure it’s a story that needed to be remade but it’s one that will always ring true: a tale of heartache and mistake, of love and self-discovery… and the eternal search for the perfect playlist.