WHEN: 10:00pm EST, February 10th, 2012

WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME (Alderaan)

FORMAT: DVD on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV

COMPANY: My brother Matt (for the first half), Bill‘s lady friend Becca (for most of the first half)

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Tired after a day of work with a bad cold

-I love that orange shirt that Barry wears. The one with the Charger bursting through some fire.

-Becca feels bad for Dick during a scene where he awkwardly talks to Rob. “If this is the way he talks to someone he has known for 4 years, what is he like in public?” she says. I think she has a point.

-The scene where Rob asks Laura what chance they have of getting back together is incredibly similar to one in Dumb and Dumber.

-Barry also has a shirt with a tiger breaking through a pane of what appears to be glass.

-It is hard to hear because of the music and yelling, but during one of his anti-Ian imaginings, Rob yells the following: “Leave the fucking country. You will look back on ten phone calls a night as the golden age. Get ready, motherfucker.” I find this awesome.

-Rob’s table has an awfully large bowl of fruit on it for someone who lives alone. Are they fake? That doesn’t seem as though it would fit his aesthetic. Wouldn’t they rot before he got around to eating them all?

This viewing got off to a spooky start… Let me explain. I had been putting off watching High Fidelity all week, and I continued to put it off during the evening. To put off watching it, I watched two episodes of Archer and three of the almost funny, socially deranged bastard child of Arrested Development, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Then I put the High Fidelity disc into the DVD player. I then delayed watching a little longer, by having a long conversation about high school with Matt and Becca. Finally, realizing I was not going to finish before midnight if I did not start soon, I changed the input on the TV to the DVD player… only to find that the movie had, gasp, started playing on its own AT THE EXACT MOMENT I SWITCHED THE INPUT!!!1!!1!

Ok, so, not very spooky, just a little coincidental. But I felt it bore noting. Here is a spooky picture to compensate:

But where did his career go? Insert ghost noise.

The more times I watch this movie, the more I notice that John Cusack looks an awful lot like his sister. I also note that the more times I watch this movie, the more attractive I find Joan Cusack. My brother thinks that this is disgusting. “She has a very unfortunate face for a woman,” he says. What does this mean? Do I find her attractive because she just has to grow on you? Do I find her attractive because I hate Rob and subliminally want to sex up his sister? I have no idea. You tell me.

But let’s talk a little bit about the impact of a character who never so much as makes an appearance (unless you count a casket). I am, of course, talking about Laura’s dad. His death, and its emotional effect upon Laura is, I believe, entirely responsible for the movie’s “happy ending.”

“But John,” you may say, “I could be wrong, but isn’t it Rob’s apology, demonstrating his ability to change his ways, that really causes Laura to take him back?” Well, you could be, and are, wrong. It is true that Rob, while attending the funeral, does make this small gesture of conciliation, but all indications point to it merely being a whim. He spends the funeral not grieving the death of a man who means the world to the woman he supposedly loves, but fantasizing about how he himself will be remembered on the day of his inevitable demise. He spends the reception glaring, and making snappy remarks at Liz who, as a genuine friend of Laura, has a better reason to be there. It is only in a passing moment of genuine self-reflection that he takes a minimal effort (two whole words!) to say, “I’m sorry.” Once he has her back, what actions does Rob take? He flirts with the girl from The Reader. He takes active steps to undermine the genuinely nice effort Laura has put into creating the release party for him. What a dick!

In point of fact, Laura knows that Rob is a dick. She knows before the movie even begins, and she takes some positive action. She leaves him. She leaves him for someone who is actually a much nicer person. As unlikeable as Tim Robbins’s portrayal of Ian Raymond is, he shows every indication of being a caring, supportive beau. He just has a really creepy, obnoxious, burnt-out-hippie-esque way of showing it. In fact, if shown from Ian’s point of view, this could be the story of a nice man who saves a nice girl from an insensitive jerk, only to be harassed to an almost illegal degree, and finally lose the girl to the self-same insensitive jerk.

I really cannot stress strongly enough that Rob’s harassment of Laura and Ian is creepy, not cute. When we first see him at the pay phone, Rob has a lot of quarters with him. Did people just carry around more quarters back then, or is he already planning his stakeout of Ian’s apartment? And how much time does Rob spend doing this? The way the movie is cut, it is hard to tell. In one scene he is making the first call, but in the next he is already being asked by Liz to stop calling Laura. This implies that it has been a couple of days at least. When Ian finally comes and confronts him at work, Rob says that he has stopped. Ian replies that he was there that very morning. I think this may imply a few days more. With this in mind, Ian’s restraint in the store is much more laudable than Rob’s. It also makes Laura’s decision to go back to him on the drop of a dime all the more puzzling.

The answer is presented to us when Laura asks Rob to fuck her in the car. Laura says that she feels so awful in the wake of her dad’s death that she needs to feel something else. She can either have sex with the man who has been stalking her for a week, or stub cigarettes out on her arm. Two masochistic choices if ever there have been. She chooses sex with a cold, soaking wet, and soil-covered Rob. Probably on some level she assumes that even if she did go home to jam burning tobacco sticks into her flesh, she would be doing so to the sound of a constantly ringing phone, rung by a soaked Cusack outside the window. You win, Rob. You wore her down. With a little help from her angina-afflicted dead dad. Angina’s tough.

And Rob, that lucky bastard. How does he respond to his success? He just slumps back into his old awful ways. At least long enough to come to the conclusion that he wants to stop “jumping from rock to rock till there aren’t any rocks left.” Laura is no one special to him. She is just the rock that he has decided to stop jumping at. Rob is no one special to her, he is just an alternative to being left alone with her horrible ghost-dad ridden thoughts. They are settling for each other. They are folding. Hedging their bets. They are getting out of the game, even though they are behind. And this is romance? Fuck this shit.