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High Fidelity is a 1995 British novel by Nick Hornby (also known for About a Boy). It was adapted into a 2000 film directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack. It also served as the basis for a 2006 Broadway musical of the same name.
All incarnations follow Rob Fleming (Gordon in the film), a London (Chicago in the film) record store owner in his 30s whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. At the record shop, Championship Vinyl, Rob and his employees Dick and Barry spend their free moments discussing mix-tape aesthetics and constructing "top-five" lists of anything that demonstrates their knowledge of music, movies and pop culture.
Rob, recalling his five most memorable breakups, sets about getting in touch with the former girlfriends. Eventually, Rob's re-examination of his failed relationships and the death of Laura's father bring the two of them back together just as Rob revives his disc jockey career. Realizing that his fear of commitment being a result of his fear of death of those around him, and his tendency to act on emotion are responsible for his continuing desires to pursue new women, Rob makes a symbolic commitment to Laura.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Adaptation Expansion: The Kinky Wizards were not in the book (though Rob at one point muses upon the idea of starting a label).
- Adaptation Name Change: Marie LaSalle in the novel becomes Marie deSalle in the film, probably for euphony more than anything else.
- Alliterative Name: Allison Ashworth and Laura Lydon.
- Aside Glance: In the movie, Rob talks to the audience frequently.
- This happened in the book, too in a sense; occasionally, Rob would take a moment to personally address the reader.
- The Cameo: Bruce Springsteen appears as an apparition to Rob in the movie.
- Cultural Translation: The adaptation.
- Dawson Casting: Only the flashbacks where John Cusack plays the older teenage version of himself.
- In the flashbacks where, in the book, Rob was about thirteen, he was played by Drake Bell.
- Fan Hater: In universe, the protagonists treat people who enjoy music they don't like with disdain.
- Girl of the Week
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted; Laura gets an abortion, but it's handled very realistically and if anything makes her more, rather than less, sympathetic.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Sonic Death Monkey, Barry Jive and the Uptown Five and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.
- Also Kinky Wizards (the band of the punks who shoplifted in Rob's shop earlier).
- Historical Domain Character: Though they never feature directly in the narrative, several Real Life musicians pop up in passing (Marie LaSalle slept with a famous American singer-songwriter whose name isn't specifically mentioned, the bands Suede, The Auteurs and Saint Étienne wanted to put up posters in the shop etc.).
- Imagine Spot
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: A couple in a row, dealing with how Rob wants to deal with Ian. These culminate in A No-Holds-Barred Beatdown where Dick throws the first punch and the fight ends with Ian's head crushed under a air conditioner window-unit
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks: In-universe - this is the guys' standard; Barry calls Rob's picks for Top Five "Track Ones/Side Ones" "very pussy" for only including one semi-obscure Massive Attack song. Barry's probably the worst of them in this regard.
- London Town: In the book.
- Loser Protagonist: Rob, though much more so in the movie.
- Make Up or Break Up
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Mostly regarding disagreements of musical opinion. Taken one step further by Barry, who compiles a questionnaire about music, films etc. to present to women he's interested in going out with, to make sure they are suitably compatible beforehand. Naturally, none of the women in question take kindly to this.
- Mood Whiplash: In the space of a single sentence. "I go for a drink with Liz and she bitches about Ray the whole evening, which is great; and then Laura's dad dies, and everything changes."
- Muse Abuse
- One-Scene Wonder: Tim Robbins gets one or two scenes as Rob's pompous, arrogant hippie neighbour Ian, and steals every one.
- No Fourth Wall: Rob continuously addresses the camera in the film. This was the way that Stephen Frears and John Cusack decided to include the massive amounts of very important and integral narration of the book.
- Nostalgic Narrator: Sometimes averted, sometimes played straight.
- Race Lift: Marie in the film. What's particularly amusing is that Dick's description of what she looks like in the film is identical to his description in the book, except that he appends "Except, you know, black" to the end of it in the former case.
- Romantic Comedy
- Shout-Out: Several when Rob, Dick, and Barry discuss music (since they work at a record store, this is rather frequent).
- The book is laden with music shout-outs from start to finish. It includes many of Rob's music-related top five lists, with titles like "Top Five Elvis Costello Songs," "Top Five Best Side One Track Ones," and "Top Five Floor-fillers at The Groucho."
- Stealth Pun: The title obviously refers to high fidelity sound systems. However, there is also 'infidelity' in the book, with Rob cheating on Laura. Also counts as Fridge Brilliance once you realise.
- The Film of the Book
- The Windy City: In the movie.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "WHAT FUCKING IAN GUY?!!"
- Top Five List
- Unreliable Narrator: Rob's memories of his exes are very skewed and biased, most especially in the case of Charlie. He eventually realizes this himself.