Monday, December 19, 2011

I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.

It's a love/hate relationship, mine and High Fidelity. The book and the movie, not the audiophilic concept.

I actually read the book first, back in the photo lab days, when I was picking anything off the library shelves that seemed halfway interesting. I remember the announcement of John Cusack as the star right about when I finished it, and thought it was a fine choice. I liked the book a lot, but everything I enjoyed about it was in the movie, so let's just talk about that.

Honestly, is this a romantic comedy for dudes? Nerd-dudes? It's actually not romantic very much, and somehow that's what makes it romantic. Rob and Laura's (hey, the Petries?) relationship stops with a fairly low amount of drama, and resumes with even less, and even that last, Natasha-Gregson-Wagner shaped curveball is dealt with in a terribly rational way, at least for the movies. It's not "self-aware," in a post-modern hipster kind of way, but it knows itself, and its foibles. That's something I've always found attractive in people, too, and it's comforting to see it in High Fidelity. Because I can see myself in it.

Or, maybe, it's that I want to see myself in it. Obviously, I share some of the qualities and obsessions: as I write this, I'm surrounded by music, books about music, and hard drives full of the stuff. I come home, sit down, and a record goes on. Then another. Or iTunes goes on shuffle. It's always meant the world to me, and it's the easiest art to share. Sure, you can lend someone a book, but you won't want to wait there while they read it. No two people will look at a painting and see the same thing. Movies are closer, but music allows for a nearly instant shared experience, under endless circumstances. I've felt it at shows with a thousand other people, when Fugazi broke into "Waiting Room." And I've felt it right here, when someone I hadn't really met until that night played me a beautiful song I'd never heard, and we closed our eyes and listened.

But I've never owned a record store. Never even worked at one, although I always wanted to. So did a bunch of other nerds, so there never seemed to be an opening. I've never run a record label, and I wanted to do that, too. Until I realized I actually could, if I had enough money I could commit to losing, if I had to. So I suppose that one's still on the table. I've had DJ gigs for years, on and off (although I've never "spun," thank you very much,) but I've never had a pretty stranger ask what I was playing. I never had to desire to create something, really, it was part and parcel with being in a band. That's what I wanted, was to play music with people, and I've been able to do that for a lot of years. Past that, I work a job I'm fairly ambivalent about, so I can pay rent, play music, and buy records. And I do make a damned good mixtape, if I say so myself.

I make lists, but not incessant top fives. Hell, I don't usually like to rank anything. I don't call up exes and ask them where I went wrong. I don't stutter and mumble anything like I used to, and I don't yell and push my opinion on everybody that crosses my path. But I'm in there, somewhere. It helps that the movie is visually a love letter to two things that mean a lot to me: record stores and Chicago. I can't put myself in completely, though, because the message I get out of it is one I can't agree with.

Part of it is in Laura's dialogue, in one of the six or seven scenes where she's taking stuff out of the apartment:

All I'm saying is, you have to allow for things to happen to people, but most of all to yourself.

I think I allow for things to happen, although it can be tough. It's easy to get complacent, when things are...satisfactory. Not even good, necessarily, but not at all bad. But the movie itself subjugates that message by the end, because all that happens is that the characters either face changes that don't matter, or nothing actually changes.

Dick gets a girlfriend. That doesn't seem to change anything. Barry sings the hell out of some Marvin Gaye. He'll probably show up at Championship Vinyl the next day, just like any other. And Rob and Laura have settled for each other. The key here is another bit of dialogue, Rob's this time:

I'm tired of the fantasy, because it doesn't really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really[...]delivers. And I'm tired of it. And I'm tired of everything else for that matter. But I don't ever seem to get tired of you, so...

He's tired of trying, even. He's settled. And she's tired, too, so she took him back. She's settled. I'm not ready to settle yet.

I understand. I have a craving for stability that I can't ever seem to fill, a combination of homesickness and restlessness. So I look for new experiences where I can find them, most of which comes in the form of new music. And I hope to be able to recognize the changes, when they come. But I'm not really looking to be Rob, or Dick or Barry. I just want to be the best me. The happiest me, the comfortable me. I hope that I can find that. But even that probably won't stop me from buying records. And if I'm lucky, maybe someday I can clock an insufferable asshole with an old phone.


  1. It's not so much settling as realizing that fantasies are much less satisfying than living real life. Music writer girl at the end of the movie is just another fantasy that Rob is tempted to chase, at the risk of something that works very well in reality.

    Maybe that's "settling down," but it's not settling. It's having the stones to commit to something permanent rather than chase something that's ultimately a projection from your own brain and doesn't exist in the real world. No real person can ever live up to a fantasy.

    Sorry--it just so happens that i spent some time thinking about this movie and how it relates to me recently as well, and i came out of it pretty happy with how Rob comes to terms with real life.

  2. I get that. But the key word, for me, is "tired." Particularly in Laura's case.

  3. Being tired of something that's ultimately bad for you is not a bad thing!

  4. i totally know that feeling, and i'm so glad i didn't end up in a rob/laura situation, although i see now how easily i could have. i'd never really thought about about it before ... but that ending pretty much sucked for laura.
    there were differences between the book and the movie that still bother me. i wish it had been set in the uk with all the same pop culture references, but i understand they had to adapt it for a bigger audience. still one of the greatest books i've ever read.
    oh and after seeing that movie i had a huge crush on natasha gregson-wagner and i totally got that haircut :D

  5. The ending totally did not suck for Laura! She's with a dude who's finally getting his shit together emotionally! He proposed to her, and she said no!

    In fact, it's critically important that that scene ends the way it does: she says "no," but then says "it's good that you asked." He's getting it together, but she's purposely waiting to say "yes" until it's the right time for both of them and he's asking for the right reasons. They're on the way to a real, meaningful partnership and it's awesome.

    Firework romance is for suckers. Do you want huge, dramatic explosions that go cold in days, or a slow boil that lasts forever?

  6. Whether or not where they've ended up at the end of the movie is good for them, there's this:

    Laura: I'm too tired not to be with you.
    Rob: What, so if you had a bit more energy we'd stay split up, but things being as they are, with you being wiped out and all, you want to get back together? Is that it?
    Laura: Yeah.

    That sounds awful. That makes me feel bad.