Romantic comedies have been with us since the 1920s and 1930s, though it’s been hard to avoid the boom in romantic comedies since the ’90s that have blessed (or cursed) our screens, especially during the last decade. For many, rom-coms are a guilty pleasure, and there’s nothing like seeing two people fall in love with a little feel-good comedy to keep it light.
Typically, the feel-good storyline in a rom-com generates a serotonin buzz in the audience when we finally see the two main characters come together, and we can all let out a big sigh of relief. For some reason the (mostly) unrealistic yet optimistic and cheerful approach gives us hopeless romantics something to cling to, but the year 2000 saw something a little different with the film of the director Stephen Frears. High fidelity.
Based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel of the same name, High fidelity stars John Cusack, in what is considered one of his greatest films. Cusack stars as hapless love interest, audiophile record store owner Rob Gordon, who (after being dumped by his girlfriend Laura) decides to take a trip down memory lane and reunite with his ex-girlfriends. (which largely constitute the excellent High fidelity payout, with a large Black Jack). Making a sort of typical music fan’s “Top Five” list, he breaks down his five most memorable breakups to find out how he failed in his relationships and what he’s doing wrong.
This brilliant romantic comedy touched the rom-com genre and is still important today, as evidenced by the High fidelity TV series that have sadly come and gone. Fortunately, the movie High fidelity will likely remain immortal in the hallowed halls of great rom-coms, and here’s why.
Break the fourth wall
Rob’s decision to break the fourth wall and address the audience directly wasn’t something commonly seen in a rom-com and affected the way we’ve seen rom-coms before, although the technique has existed for a long time. Cusack actually told The New York Times that breaking the fourth fall was “the biggest challenge in adapting the novel”, but the decision proved to be very liberating and the director, Stephen Frears, said that “a Once you commit to that, you can bypass naturalism completely.”
Addressing the audience directly to the camera is a trick that can alienate or compel the viewer into something; it can be funny, irritating, or even shocking at times, and it’s always a brave move on the director’s part. In the case of High fidelity, it certainly paid off, as it puts audiences outside of their comfort zone (where people would generally want to be in a classic rom-com). It makes the view feel like it’s part of the movie, that it’s more realistic, which is something completely different from the typical lovey-dovey feel of a rom-com, where it almost looks like an impossible fiction and a bit of a fairy tale. High fidelity actually brought something new to the genre that way, something that people like Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Flea bag have used to great effect ever since.
The emotional nudity that accompanies the breaking of the fourth wall and the direct communication with the audience adds to the film’s humorous effect, allowing the viewer to delve into the fears and contradictions of the male psyche like few others have. , bringing a modern style and refreshing twist to the genre. It’s interesting to watch, as Rob isn’t always completely truthful when talking to viewers; he is what is called an “unreliable narrator”. Although he tries to own up to his flaws and mistakes, he still tricks and deceives himself, which is fun for viewers because we see everything and know what he really looks like.
The relationship to oneself
A typical love story: one person meets another person, they fall in love, have a little conflict, make up, then live happily ever after. Most rom-coms can have this little drama in there, where something goes wrong before it’s quickly fixed, but it’s always about the relationship, isn’t it? High fidelity, of course, is about relationships, but it affected the rom-com genre by doing something different; at a time when the heyday of romantic comedies and action movies was filled with a certain romance and hero and villain binaries, High fidelity gave the protagonist an egocentric jerk.
Rob was indeed a terrible person, a sexist and a womanizer, someone who dumped one of his girlfriends because she refused to let him touch her whenever he wanted. Casting this type of person as the main character in a romantic comedy redefined the way protagonists are portrayed, and now the number of anti-hero protagonists has grown exponentially.
Unlike most love stories, High fidelity is not a will-or-they-won’t scenario. It’s more about how we interact with ourselves and how we grow in self-awareness. Rob refuses to learn from his ex-girlfriends and struggles to recognize and correct his flaws. We watch romantic comedies to console ourselves; they are comforting films, guilty pleasures or a way to feel sad because we had bad luck in love. They are not always there to deliver a message; sometimes movies are just there to cheer us up.
High fidelity, on the other hand, has had an impact on romantic comedies because of its ability to truly sway the viewer as it teaches us valuable lessons about self-awareness, healthy relationships, and sensing our own selfishness or toxicity. . It’s almost an anti-romance movie, in the way it challenges typical romance movie tropes and invites viewers to ask why and how they find love in the first place. It also impacted the rom-com genre by bringing concepts such as male dysfunction, misogyny, fear of commitment, and how some men view the importance and position of women in their lives.
The film’s unconventional nature is part of what makes it so compelling to watch, as it invites us to consider ourselves, our behaviors, and how we treat others in relationships. Undoubtedly, High Fidelity is a brilliant romance about the tragedy of failed relationships and the pain of a broken heart, but it also beautifully and successfully changed the way we view romantic comedies, influencing the genre by creating a new way to represent a protagonist. and give rom-coms an exciting, fresh, and more realistic take on self-development and romance.
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