WHEN: 9:30PM EST, September 8, 2012
WHERE: At my apartment in Portland, ME (Alderaan)
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Completely mentally exhausted from watching Cusack movies. Had just watched 19 of them in less than 72 hours. Was feeling stir crazy. Hadn’t left the house since I went to the video store to get more Cusack movies the previous afternoon. Too much Cusack to handle.
In case you missed it, my thoughts on Cusack’s early career can be found here, here, and here.
After watching the 19 movies in which John Cusack starred before High Fidelity, we’re back. This is the Cusack we know and love. But seeing all those earlier movies has had its effect. Age that I had not noticed before is slipping into his face, albeit subtly. I had always thought that he looked convincingly young in the High Fidelity flashbacks, but I hadn’t seen 1980s Cusack then. The difference is not dramatic, but noticeable.
The quote that sticks in my head throughout this viewing is, “All my romantic stories are a scrambled version of that first one.” Applied to Cusack’s career, it takes on a new significance. Everything comes back to The Sure Thing. It is the movie that made him a star in his own right, and it established the role that he would repeatedly be cast in for the rest of his career: Guy without his act together pursues woman who takes herself very seriously. We see it strongly in Better off Dead, Hot Pursuit, Say Anything, True Colors, Grosse Pointe Blank, Being John Malkovich, and High Fidelity, and we see shades of it in most of his other films.
Rob’s all time top five most memorable breakups are Allison Ashmore, Penny Hardwick, Charlie Nicholson, Jackie Alden, and Sarah Kendrew. I guess Daphne Zuniga, Amanda Wyss, Demi Moore, Ione Skye, Annette Bening, Imogen Stubbs, Debi Mazar, Diane Wiest, Mary-Louise Parker, Minnie Driver, animated Meg Ryan, Alison Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener just didn’t quite make the cut.
ROB AS GIB:
If many of Cusack’s characters are reminiscent The Sure Thing‘s Gib, it is particularly true for High Fidelity‘s Rob. Much like Rob, Gib thinks with his gut, and his gut has shit for brains. Neither seem ready to commit to the women they are interested in. Neither have plans on where to take their lives. For every endearing demonstration of these traits in The Sure Thing, there is a depressing moment when they rear their head in High Fidelity. Even in the flashbacks to high school, Rob’s actions come across as ugly and cruel. Perhaps they look that way because we know that Rob hasn’t changed. Gib has time to learn and grow. We get the feeling that Rob, whatever he might say to the contrary at the end of the movie, is stuck in his ways.
Like many of the others, High Fidelity shows Cusack going through “one of those what does it all mean things,” as Charlie so aptly puts it. But High Fidelity is really the first time that we see an older Cusack dealing with dating issues. This is not a retread of old material. It is a reexamination of classic Cusack themes from a new angle of age, desperation and depression. At the time of its release, at very least, it ranks among the best of Cusack’s work.
Now, just some quick thoughts about other elements of High Fidelity, in the wake of the Cusackathon:
-No other character in this marathon was quite the same shade of awful as Charlie. Catherine Keener’s character in Being John Malkovich is probably a worse person, but she at least is aware of her manipulative tendencies. One gets the feeling that Charlie believes herself to be the center of every possible universe, and gives no shits about anyone. She doesn’t realize she’s horrible. How could she? She is a god.
-Barry might well fit into the bizarre worlds of Savage Steve Holland’s Better off Dead and One Crazy Summer.
-Sarah Kendrew definitely has her similarities to Corey Flood, Lili Taylor’s character in Say Anything. As with Rob, the aging has made her obsessive behavior less endearing. Such is the passage of time.
-Wait. Rob bought Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” in the fall of 1983? How old was he when he bought it? How old is he during the film? Was he buying it for someone in early high school? That would have to be the case if, like Gib, he graduated around 85. Was it for Penny? The timing here is problematic.
-Laura could easily be a grown-up version of Diane from Say Anything or Alison from The Sure Thing. Why do all these serious, aspiring lawyer types keep falling for shiftless Cusacks?
-Movie youth have changed since the mid-eighties. Vince and Justin would not have fit anywhere in The Sure Thing or Better off Dead.
-Oh, and did I mention that it RAINS in High Fidelity:
And then it rains some more…
And then it rains even more…
Someone up there hates him.
Either that, or someone up there likes seeing him wet.
Stay tuned for the 15 or so movies he’s starred in since 2000. It’ll be a little bit, though. There is only so much Cusack one man can take, and I’ve had about 10 times that dosage already.