By Dom Cioffi
The other day I had half an hour to kill so I grabbed my iPad, flopped down on the couch and fired up my Netflix app. After perusing for a bit, I came across one of my all-time favorite movies, “High Fidelity,” starring John Cusack as the love-mangled record store owner, Rob Gordon.
I stared at the play button for a moment and then, almost without thinking, I pressed it and began watching. Needless to say, I didn’t move from the couch until the final credits rolled.
Everyone has a few movies that inevitably draw them in. If I see “Shawshank Redemption” playing on television, I simply put down the remote, knowing full well that all I need to see is Andy Dufresne’s face and I’m hooked. The same holds true for “The Wizard of Oz,” “Pulp Fiction” and any Monty Python film.
I raved about “High Fidelity” in this column when it was released 15 years ago in the year 2000. And since that initial viewing, I have probably watched the film 10 or 11 times – it’s that appealing to me.
I wrote in that original column that “Some movies just click so well that it’s hard to imagine that someone didn’t consult with me before writing the screenplay. In fact, the characters, the music, the storyline, the poignant moments in ‘High Fidelity’ all seem so closely related to my own life experiences that I feel as though I should have written it.”
Years ago, after watching one of John Cusack’s first films (“Sixteen Candles”), I read an article where the young star was interviewed. He seemed like a regular guy with whom I shared many interests. But one thing in particular struck me: his age. It mentioned that he was 17, and back in 1984, when “Sixteen Candles” was first released, that was exactly my age.
I’ve never forgotten that and as time wore on and the years have passed by, I have always gauged my personal aging process against John Cusack. We went through our 20s together, our 30s together, our 40s together, and now we’re both knocking on the door to our 50s.
I make it a point to attend all of Cusack’s movies and inevitably the first thing I notice when he appears on screen is how old he looks and acts. I guess I figure when John starts to appear like an old man, so will I.
One of my favorite parts about “High Fidelity” is the reoccurring top five lists that the characters create, (e.g. “the top five best songs about death,” “the top five best songs about breaking up,” etc.).
They construct these lists as reflections of their lives: impromptu associations derived from a poignant moment or stressful situation. It’s a highly creative story accessory that makes the film that much more appealing.
So, in honor of one of my most cherished films, I will now list my all-time top five favorite classic rock songs (in as much as I could quickly formulate a list from my current iTunes collection):
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen: There has never been a better song written about breaking free from the confines of youth. Written during his most raw and honest period, “Born to Run” proved that Bruce was the future of rock and roll.
“American Girl” by Tom Petty: Simply a great song by a great songwriter. Petty just never stops writing powerful tunes, but this one stands out as my favorite in terms of yearning for days gone by.
“Bertha” by The Grateful Dead: Turn this one up loud and I could dance to it forever. No one jammed better than the Dead and when they let loose on “Bertha,” all I have ever felt was happiness.
“One” by U2: This hauntingly beautiful composition came at a poignant moment for the band and is credited with keeping them from breaking up. If I ever need to be reflective, this is the song I turn to.
“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys: Brian Wilson’s harmonically complex masterpiece showed the world that he was indeed a genius composer and masterful producer. I don’t care who listens to this song, it always sounds amazing.
Ironically, this week’s feature, “Love & Mercy” happens to feature the complicated life story of Brian Wilson with my good friend John Cusack portraying the artist in his later years.
Set in two stages (the early days of the Beach Boys’ career and Brian Wilson’s later years as the live-in patient of a domineering therapist), “Love & Mercy” chronicles the slow demise of Wilson’s fragile psychological state.
Any fan of rock music will want to see this film. Not only does it highlight several important periods of one of history’s most gifted composers, but it also shows how genius and crazy dance so very close together.
Check this one out to get a clearer view of Brian Wilson’s complex life and to also revel in the pure artistry of his musical talents.
A vibrating “B+” for “Love & Mercy.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected].