REVIEW: ‘High Fidelity’ is a Musical Reflection on Love

Rating: 4 out of 4.

“Hulu’s High Fidelity is a fresh, eclectic ensemble of beautiful, modern New York scenery and a signature soundtrack.”

After the 1995 novel High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, and the 2000 movie of the same name, directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Hulu brings us a groovy ten episode comedy inspired by the previous works. High Fidelity dropped on Valentine’s Day and deals with all things love and heartbreak, as well as the ups and downs of relationships.

Our female lead Robyn “Rob” (Zoë Kravitz) is a young woman in her late twenties working at a record selling store – “Championship Records” – in Brooklyn, New York, with her two friends Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da’vine Joy Randolph). Having just broken up with her boyfriend Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir), she tries to get around on her own but struggles to find closure, even a year after the separation. Her next door neighbor, an old lonely lady who spends her time smoking at her window, is to her a constant reminder of what her future as a single woman might look like.

Lost and confused about where she stands in the world, Rob yearns for a sense of purpose at an age where you see your friends getting married, having children and building grown-up lives for themselves. To her, navigating relationships is still one of life’s greatest mysteries and she tries to find herself as well as the reason behind her sentimental failures. Rob decides to learn from these past mistakes by asking the members of her ‘Top 5 Most Memorable Heartbreaks’ list, meaning her past five boyfriends and girlfriends, what went wrong in their relationship.

Released more than twenty years after the book got published, Hulu’s High Fidelity is a fresh, eclectic ensemble of beautiful, modern New York scenery and a signature soundtrack introduced by the characters or simply casually playing in the background. The show is a tribute to great music old and new, popular and unknown, with timeless staple tunes like Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners or Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, and newer hits like Frank Ocean’s Nikes. Music is, for many of the characters, an outlet for self-expression as well as a source of comfort, matching their mood. It plays a crucial role in making the show so catchy and entertaining.

Record selling and buying, a trend long forgotten but coming back into fashion, makes for an authentic core for the series. It creates an atmosphere of 70s and 80s nostalgia in the superficial and fleeting society of NYC, which some of the characters have trouble identifying with.

Image courtesy of Hulu
Still of actress Zoë Kravitz on set

Although our main character might come off as very sure of herself and laid back, what the show reveals is the complete opposite. Rob has a tendency to overthink things and is what one of her exes, Kat Monroe (Ivanna Sakhno), calls “obsessive” and “too in touch with her feelings”. Her decision to take a step back, look into her past, and interrogate her exes is a way to search for the validation she needs, and the confirmation that she isn’t such a bad person. She finds excuses like fate and the universe getting in the way of her relationships to avoid reflecting on her own flaws and taking part of the blame.

When she finally decides to start dating again, mainly to prove herself and her friends that she isn’t still hooked on her ex-boyfriend Mac, she meets Clyde (Jake Lacy), a humorous and generous man, but she doesn’t take him seriously and even tries to escape their date without him noticing, which is apparently habit of hers. Considering that things ended abruptly for her and Mac, it is understandable that Rob has a hard time dealing with what she has left of their memories and the time they spent together. The first scene of the series shows Mac gathering his belongings and running out the door, and we progressively get more insight into what lead to this event as the series goes on. Flashbacks portray them as a passionate and nurturing couple, in complete sync with each other.

But as we get to see more of Rob, we learn that her side of the story isn’t always the most accurate. What she tells the audience, addressing the camera directly, is one version of a multifaceted story, and what we see isn’t the complete and honest truth. We can piece it back with the intervention of the other characters and find Rob to be quite unreliable, used to fleeing confrontation and running away when things get too complicated or overwhelming.

When she is faced with the consequences of her actions, Rob is forced to make amends and own up to her failures. Having a main character that is as flawed as she is makes for a realistic experience, and it is reassuring to see her positively evolve the way she does throughout the show.

High Fidelity is as serious and honest as it is lighthearted and colorful. It portrays the many ways that one can express love, the risks that come with truly letting it in and the boldness it takes to overcome our fear of commitment and disappointment.

Prod: Veronica West, Sarah Kucserka

Cast: Zoë Kravitz, Kingsley Ben-Adir, David H. Holmes, Da’vine Joy Randolph, Jake Lacy

Release Date: 14 February 2020

Available on: Hulu

Official Trailer for High Fidelity