Little to say for myself

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

High Fidelity

This is a propos of nothing, other than the fact that I haven't posted much for ages, and this thought came back into my head this morning.

Like many others, I really enjoyed reading Nick Hornby's High Fidelity a few years back - mainly for its exposition of how the "bloke" mind works.

(If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, but intend to, then read no further - the plot details will spoil your enjoyment.)

When I heard about the movie, and that it was going to be set in Chicago rather than London (presumably because John Cusack would find it easier that way), I had my reservations but went to see it anyway. Good movie - would recommend it to anyone. Happily, it didn't fall down where I expected it to. Being a Brit, I wrongly assumed that the interplay between Rob, Dick and Barry in the record shop (with their music snobbery and nerdy preoccupations) wouldn't travel well, but it turned out to be every bit as good as in the book.

However, the film chickened out of two things that I thought were major plusses in the book.
  • My first (and minor) gripe with the film was the addition of "discover talented young musicians and produce their first CD" to the plotline. It seemed that, to provide an upbeat ending for the cinema audience, there had to be at least the possibility that our hero would become rich and successful as a record producer, and thereby escape the dingey dead-end of the record shop. I preferred the book's message that you can be fulfilled simply by being happy in your skin and doing something you really love doing.
  • My second (and major) gripe was with the scene between Rob and Laura in the car, just after the funeral. Laura is distraught and incredibly vulnerable, and asks Rob to have sex with her to give her respite from the grief. In the film he gladly complies and their relationship bursts into life, the jealousy over her previous fling forgotten. This was lovely in its way, but it missed what was, for me, the most powerful scene in the book. All along, we (at least the "bloke" readership) have been empathising with Rob. This is easy to do. He may be naive in the ways of love but he's much cooler than Dick and Barry. He knows lots of stuff about proper music. He's funny and charming enough to get off with the attractive Texan singer. He has a string of amusingly failed relationships that we can all relate to in one way or another. We like him. But in the car, confronted with the woman he loves asking him to make love to her, he responds with an unsettlingly powerful ring of truth: he doesn't do it. Instead he asks her if she has a condom, knowing that she doesn't. When she's at her most vulnerable, and despite the fact that she's clearly still fond of him, and grief-stricken at the loss of her father, he seizes the first opportunity he's had in weeks to hurt her. He can't have unprotected sex with her because she fucked another man. She can't even hit back, because his argument is solid. For me, holding up the mirror like that - showing that underneath our lovable exteriors we are all capable of such vindictiveness - was the main lesson I took from the book.
Being human is not always as comfortable as Hollywood would have us think, and I wish more movies would have the balls to show our true selves.

posted by Plig | 20:19 |

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