WHEN: 6:45pm EST, February 13th, 2012
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME (Alderaan)
FORMAT: DVD on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV
COMPANY: Elliot, roommate, and Carina, friend
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Suffering from tail end of a cold. Freshly showered. Had just finished an all-day marathon of romantic comedies.
REACTIONS OF NOTE:
– Rob has the number of Alison Ashmore, his junior high girlfriend in his little black book? That is a little weird.
– The movie that Rob sees with Penny is The Dreamlife of Angels. It was released in ’98. If Penny is reviewing it for her work, she must be pretty late to catch it, since the movie takes place in at least ’99.
– It seems odd that there is that one scene where Championship Vinyl is busy. But I suppose if it weren’t busy, the skate punks couldn’t make their theft.
Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I watched a marathon of romantic comedies, ending with High Fidelity. I watched The Philadelphia Story (1940), When Harry Met Sally (1989), The Wedding Singer (1998), and The Notebook (2004). As it turns out, only the first three are comedies, though all are romantic. All four are about two or more people vying for the affections of someone else in the movie. Through a series of mishaps, coincidences, hi-jinks, and/or clichés, they all eventually end up with the partner they really needed all along, and everyone is presumed to live happily ever after (until SPOILER ALERT they get Alzheimer’s and die).
Who says it’s not a comedy?
So here is the story:
Rich Guy/Harry/Wedding Singer/Hick meets Rich Lady/Sally/Waitress/Rich Lady. However, because they hate each other/are too good friends/are engaged to someone else/have a bitchy mom who intercepts their letters, they don’t get together. But then, a night of drunkenness/sleeping together/Billy Idol/finding all those letters makes them realize they were perfect for each other all along.
It’s a romance!
How about High Fidelity? Does it fit this model?
Rob meets Laura. However, because Rob is immature, and thinks only of himself, they don’t stay together. But then, an overwhelming sense of tiredness overcomes them both and makes them realize they don’t really want to bother looking for someone better.
Ok. Wait. This is not quite the same. Also, that part of the story takes place in the first minute, and last 20 minutes of the film.
What about the other hour and a half? Rob rehashes the past, looking for an answer to the question, “Why am I doomed to be rejected?” It is a quest for self-awareness. Do we see anything like this in the other four movies? I suppose we do. In The Philadelphia Story, Katherine Hepburn’s character slowly discovers that many of her romantic problems have stemmed from the manner in which she has allowed herself to become objectified and put on a pedestal, as a “goddess” of sorts. In When Harry Met Sally, both of the titular characters examine and discover the effects of sex on friendship and their personal ability to deal with its implications. No relevant themes of self-discovery really jump out at me from The Wedding Singer, or The Notebook.
Yet, in The Philadelphia Story and When Harry Met Sally, the self-reflection grows out of a forward moving romance-centered plot. In High Fidelity, the self discovery is the forward motion, and until it is completed, there is no development in the romance department.
Also worth noting is who the story centers on. In all but High Fidelity, the focus is not on one character’s happy ending, but on a relationship forming. From the first shot of The Philadelphia Story you want Hepburn and Grant to get back together. From the very title of When Harry Met Sally, you know that Harry and Sally are destined for each other. You cringe when you find out that both Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are engaged to other people in The Wedding Singer. If you are voluntarily watching The Notebook, you have probably already read the book by Nicholas Sparks and are just waiting for Gosling and McAdams to eventually get it on. But when you first watch High Fidelity (I know this was the case for me, my first time through) you might assume that when Laura leaves, at the end of that first scene, she isn’t coming back. This is Rob’s story. It isn’t the story of Rob and Laura. It is the story of Rob and his mental hangups. And, despite last week’s rant, I’m not sure this is such a bad thing.
In the end, I would not categorize High Fidelity as a romantic comedy. Maybe that is where some of my problems with the movie have been stemming from. It’s a great film. It’s funny and emotionally violent, and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass. It just isn’t a romance. It is something more unique, for which there is not a specific genre. If you look within it for the trademarks of a romance, it is going to fail. Rob and Laura are not Harry and Sally. But if they were, it would just be a lesser When Harry Met Sally, and who wants that?
Well, probably a lot of people.