High Fidelity

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 5.0 (1:03)
Interviews - Cast and Crew
Deleted Scenes (9)
Year Released 2000
Running Time 109:02 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (74:28)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Stephen Frears
Touchstone Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring John Cusack
Jack Black
Lisa Bonet
Joelle Carter
Joan Cusack
Sara Gilbert
Iben Hjejle
Todd Louiso
Lili Taylor
Natasha Gregson Wagner
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Howard Shore

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

   High Fidelity has probably garnered as much publicity for the fact that in being based upon the book by Nick Hornby, the film has shifted the location from London to Chicago, as for any degree of excellence for the film. Well, let me state straight out that I have never read the book and probably never will. All I know is that the film feels right with its setting in Chicago, a city that I admit to not knowing as well as London but with which it shares one common trait at least - I would need to be paid a lot of money to live in either of them. So does the lack of intimate knowledge with the book make the film any less watchable? I really doubt it, for on its own without any preconceptions, this is a rather entertaining film.

   So what exactly is the film about? Well that really is not an easy question to answer as there are a couple of layers to the film, and it is entirely possible to enjoy the film on any one of those layers. Mostly, this is about relationships.

   Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is a former DJ and owner of Championship Vinyl, a record store in Chicago, which is also inhabited by his two employees - the elitist-snobbish and band wannabe Barry (Jack Black) and the introverted Dick (Todd Louiso) . This is not an overly successful business which actually mirrors another part of Rob's life - his relationships. Starting from the seventh grade, Rob has not been overly successful with women and thus when his latest with Laura (Iben Hjejle) breaks up, it is all too much and he needs to know the reason why he cannot seem to form a lasting relationship. And so we are taken on a voyage through his All Time Top 5 Break Ups. Starting with the aforementioned effort in seventh grade that lasted the sum total of six hours under the football bleachers, we follow the highlights of Rob's lowlights including number 3, the gorgeous Charlie (Catherine Zeta Jones) and number 4, the then recently spurned Sarah (Lili Taylor). Woven around this highlight reel is the story of his current bust up with Laura (number 5 on the list) which seems to be affecting him quite deeply, albeit not enough for a fling with budding recording artist Marie de Salle (Lisa Bonet). Slowly but surely, with some humorous interludes along the way, Rob comes to work out what the problem is that prevents him from maintaining a lasting relationship.

   This is as much as you should know about the film as so much of this is so real that you have in all probability met some of these people and have suffered the same experiences. This is perhaps the distinguishing point about this film: this is much closer to the real of British films than the perfection of Hollywood. The screenplay was written in part by John Cusack and so it seems rather natural that he stars in the lead role. Whilst it might seem the easiest way of getting to star in films, in this case it is an apt choice, for he carries off the role of Rob both as a character and as the narrator of sorts very well indeed. There is a lot of quirkiness in the characters around him, and the roles have been filled very well indeed. The relatively unknown (at least in Hollywood) Danish actress Iben Hjejle does a good job as Laura and comes across in a really believable way. Jack Black and Todd Louiso have nailed to a tee their characters as the music aficionados: they are so like some people that I have known over the years who work in record stores it is not funny. Beyond the main characters, we get what amounts to a whole bunch of cameos. The most memorable would have to be Catherine Zeta-Jones for fairly obvious reasons. Well directed by Stephen Frears, this ends up being a thoroughly engaging film.

   I did not quite know what to expect when going into this review but ended up enjoying the film enormously. It is easy to see why this drew some critical acclaim and this has in many ways the sort of hallmarks of a cult classic in the making: relatively low budget, engaging presentation style, quirky and believable characters, great soundtrack. If you saw this on its theatrical release and enjoyed it then you will certainly want to add this to the collection. If, like me, you missed it at the cinema, then do yourself the proverbial favour and at least cop a rental of this DVD - you may well be pleasantly surprised.

Transfer Quality


    It seems to have been a while since I managed to indulge in a non-animated feature film from the Disney conglomerate and so this was a pleasant surprise in terms of the transfer, too. This is really a very good transfer, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

    I know when I am going to have very little to say about a transfer when the only note made during the whole film was very short and sweet. Basically this is a flawless transfer. Nicely sharp, without being overly sharp, there is plenty of definition in the transfer such that certain scenes really stand out. Shadow detail is just about spot on throughout, even during those extended night-time rain scenes - usually a killer for any transfer. Clarity is exceptionally good throughout and there is no real indication of any grain at all during the film. There is no evidence of low level noise in the transfer. Damn good stuff indeed, a quality that frankly we do not see often enough in non-animated transfers from this source.

    Whilst much of the film is shot during the night or in locations that do not exactly exude bright colours, this really is quite a vibrant looking transfer. Colours are very nicely rendered with a wonderfully natural look to them, and when you get the occasional bright colour it really does show how good the transfer is. The blacks could perhaps have been just a tad deeper in tone, but the overall feel of the transfer really is quite evocative of Chicago - at least as I remember it from my one visit to the city. Apart from the slight problem in the red opening credits of the film (why do people insist on red opening credits? They are a pain to get right and really easy to stuff up) there is no issue with oversaturation here at all. Colour bleed is similarly not an issue in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts in the transfer were basically confined to some rather minor wobble at around 16:16, and that is about it in broad terms. The usual few film artefacts were present in the transfer but these really were quite inconsequential indeed.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 74:28. This is right at a scene change and is barely noticeable and not in the slightest bit disruptive to the flow of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Rather unusually for a feature film from this source, there is just the sole soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    The dialogue, and more importantly the music, comes up very well in the transfer and there is no trouble understanding what is being said. There is no problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music comes from Howard Shore but to be honest it may as well have come from a crappy $1 bootleg CD from Asia for all the difference it made to the film. The music side of things is dominated by the popular music and there is plenty of stuff here to be of interest. The soundtrack album for this film must be a beauty.

    Since this is a very heavily dialogue-driven film, there is obviously not much in the way of stunning sound effects here. Indeed about the only thing of note in the soundtrack is that the bass channel has on occasions been mixed rather unnaturally into the overall sound mix and is far too resonant. Thankfully this issue only raises its ugly head a couple of times, and in the nightclub scenes I am willing to accept it anyway. Apart from that issue, there is not much else wrong here. There is nothing much happening out of the rear channels but the front surrounds do a reasonable job of giving good presence to the dialogue. Quite free from any distortions or drop outs, the soundtrack does the job asked of it pretty well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A decent collection of extras, especially by the usual standards of Disney (although they are slowly getting better). A pity that a commentary could not have been forthcoming though.


    Nothing exceptional here, but at least they are 16x9 enhanced. Some audio enhancement would not have gone astray here.

Theatrical Trailer

    Probably more noteworthy for its shortish length rather than anything special about the trailer itself, it is a fairly standard effort. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with what sounds like Dolby Digital 5.0 sound. The main issue here is that it is a little on the dark side and lacks a little in definition as a result.

Interviews - Cast and Crew

    Well, actually interview snippets from John Cusack and Stephen Frears, presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are five snippets for each with those for John Cusack totalling 11:14 and those for Stephen Frears totalling 14:50. It is a pity that we do not have a full interview rather than these snippets, but there is some useful background information to the film once you get past the cloying bits. Nothing much wrong with these technically although there is a bit of shimmer present in the film excerpts.

Deleted Scenes (9) (14:19)

    A pity that there is no explanation as to why these were deleted, but otherwise they are mildly interesting even without perspective. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they are 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Of very decent technical quality, they are decent if not essential inclusions in the package.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    In broad terms there is little difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases of this film. The Region 1 release does feature a higher bit rate soundtrack, at 448 Kb/s, and three trailers for other releases that are not present on the Region 4 release. If you rate 448 Kb/s soundtracks significantly better than 384 Kb/s efforts, then you will have to accept the penalty of NTSC 3:2 pull down artefacts too. Given that the Region 1 release seems to be of the same high quality as the Region 4 release, call this one even on technical grounds.


    Whilst I am not going to suggest that this was an unexpected gem, it is certainly true that High Fidelity is a significantly better film than I was anticipating. It has been given an excellent video transfer, and a more than serviceable audio transfer. Unfortunately, the extras package leaves a little to be desired (interview snippets or excerpts are not really the preferred presentation method) but overall there is little here to discourage a recommendation. Well worth investigating this one on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
14th May, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL