watching high fidelity last night i was all ready to disagree with tom’s piece on said movie. i’d held off on reading the article because i wanted to see the film with a clear mind. (hmm, yes, that sounds like a good excuse.) imagine my surprise, then, when i came in this morning, read through his article, and for the large part found myself agreeing with him.

the movie does have very little to do with pop music, as tom rightly assumes. oh, it’s there — it’s everywhere, actually, from pavement posters in cusack’s apartment to lisa bonet’s character — but it’s mainly just utilized for joke purposes and as background music. while it’s never explained why they like music, one gets the impression from the characters that they do like it, at the very least. (and for the record, tom, cusack picked out the soundtrack and is in fact a very big music fan.) debates go back-and-forth within the record shop about what’s the best lead-off song on an album and what are the best songs about death. it should be noted that rob (cusack) and his cronies are exactly the kind of stereotypical “indie” fans that i detest — claiming love for pop music but turning a deaf ear to anything overtly commercial despite the fact that that is just what pop is.

tom opens his piece with the all-important question the movie poses within its opening moments: “did i listen to pop music because i was miserable, or was i miserable because i listened to pop music?” at first, i thought i agreed with him when he said that the movie ducks this question and when he later concedes that “somewhere deep down” the film wrestles with this question. the more i thought about it, though, the more i came to believe that high fidelity is all about that question.

the answer is “i was miserable because i listened to pop music,” as it should be for anyone who considers themselves a pop music fanatic. you don’t choose pop music; it chooses you, at a very early age. from the second the needle hits the groove — or for you kids out there today, the laser beams strikes the cd — you’re through: right then and there, false hopes and expectations are created within your little mind. in pop songs, you’re the greatest lover ever; the saddest man on the planet;, the world’s biggest star; the bearer of unknowable pain; forever 16, whether you’re 16 or not — all within the span of the top 40. and then the music ends and the effect dies. scary thought: pop fans all must sooner or later grow up. at least physically, if not emotionally.

rob is one of those types who’s only grown up physically. his girlfriend has left him and he’s the owner of a small record shop which we’re led to believe isn’t doing very well. instead of trying to deal with these problems (hell, we don’t even learn ’til movie’s end that he’s trained for seven years to be an architect), rob indulges in the fantasies created by pop music and, especially, their depiction of women. once he’s gotten his girl back, he tells her this much as he proposes to her, that he’s done with fantasies and that he’s ready for something real.

so is rob miserable because he listened to pop music? moreover, is he an utter asshole because he listened to pop music? yes and no. i’m sure it was a kind of contributing factor, but let’s not make pop the scapegoat here. people have to take control over their own lives, lest we live in a society where “pop music fan” becomes an acceptable excuse for a crime — and the way we’re going, we’re not very far off.

about the accuracy of record store life, i defer to tom’s experience in the matter. about other things: tom, the kids’ music wasn’t skate-metal, you fool, didn’t you see what records they were stealing? you’re just like rob, man, judging them by how they looked. and i could very easily see “hipster elitist bastards” digging jack black’s band because it was very kitschy and very is-he-being-ironic-or-what? high fidelity is definitely a highly entertaining film, but in the end, i’ll agree with old tommo in that it’s a missed opportunity. i’ve yet to come across a great book or film about pop music — though this one is better than almost famous in that regard — but there will be one, i’m sure. hey, if you start writing, i will, eh?