In an age where sequels, remakes and reboots are king, the remake that no one saw coming was that of the 2000 romantic comedy “High Fidelity.” On Feb. 14, Hulu released a ten-episode series based on the John Cusack (“Being John Malkovich”) film. While it might have been unexpected, “High Fidelity” seamlessly updates a forgettable but fun movie into an emotional and poignant series that feels current.
Replacing Cusack is Zoe Kravitz (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) as Rob, a music snob and Brooklyn-based record store owner. The series follows Rob as she navigates a personal crisis following the dissolution of her engagement. Her plan to set all right: confront her five exes, figure out why all of her past relationships have failed and win back her ex-fiance.
Rob narrates her struggles, often breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the viewer. At first, this is jarring and annoying, but as the episodes continue, the heart-to-hearts between Rob and the viewer seem more natural. This is likely due to Kravitz’s performance; her Rob is extremely flawed, horribly selfish, yet painfully earnest and relatable. Few actresses have the charisma to make such a character so likeable.
The surrounding cast of characters populate a Brooklyn that feels real. Rob’s ex-fiance is Mac, a gorgeous and effortlessly cool British man portrayed by Kingsley Ben-Adir (“World War Z”). New beau Clyde (Jake Lacey, “Carol”) is the opposite: not very cool, extremely white and into Phish. Clyde is painfully wholesome and sweet, the perfect character to juxtapose Mac. The staff at Rob’s record store are her two best friends, Simon (David H. Holmes, “Mind Hunter”) and Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, “Dolemite is My Name”).
Cherise is trying to make it as a musician yet never seems to be making music. Her character was portrayed by Jack Black (“Kung Fu Panda”) in the original movie, and while she does not quite manage to bring his energy, Cherise is a welcome comic releif to an emotionally taxing show.
Simon grounds the series emotionally, contrasting Rob’s search for love with his own search for companionship. In a later episode of the series, the perspective shifts to Simon. Where Rob is a commitment-phobe, Simon wishes he could skip the whole dating thing and just be five-years into a comfortable relationship. His struggles with sexuality and toxic relationships add dimension to the show, and reveals that there is more to this world for the audience to explore.
Another thing “High Fidelity” nails is a grungy and hip, yet elegant aesthetic; à la classic New York City shows like “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” Rob’s apartment is ridiculously nice, and realistically impossible for the twenty-something failing record store owner to afford. With baby pink walls, a velvet couch, persian rugs, and piles of records, Rob’s apartment is quintessentially boho-chic. The record store nails the same vibe, and the bar that the crew frequents is quaint, dark, and richly colored with an honest-to-god jukebox.
Given that “High Fidelity” is set mostly in a record store, it is a given that the soundtrack is impeccable. Rob is constantly making playlists, scoping out records, curating top 5 lists. The Root’s Questlove is the Executive Music Producer, and currates a soundtrack that is seamlessly woven into each episode. Frank Ocean fades into Jimi Hendrix into Dead Kennedys. Modern music taste is no longer limited by physical records and cds, and Rob’s music reflects the diversity and eclecticness that comes with that. There is even an incredible Debby Harry cameo where she bestows some dating wisdom on Rob set to her 1978 pop hit “Heart of Glass.”
The only true flaw of the show is that it stretched itself a little thin, and did not need all ten episodes to tell Rob’s story. Though the first two episodes start out strong, the series flounders a little, spends too much time on unnecessary side plots and does not pick up again until episode five. With that said, “High Fidelity” rewrites the movie’s ending, leaving it ambiguous. Whether this is a ploy to make room for future seasons or a creative choice is up in the air. Either way, the rewrite fits this series and Kravitz’s Rob more than the original would have.
As opportunities, relationships and friendships dry up and Rob as at her darkest point, it becomes startlingly real, and painful to watch. “High Fidelity” forgoes a traditional love triangle and will-they-won’t they situation and instead sticks closer to reality. Rob is paralyzed by the idea of being in a happy relationship, she is actually held accountable for her indecision and her selfishness.
The premise is a little gimmicky — it is hard to believe that a 20-year-old romcom would work as a ten episode tv series — but High Fidelity manages to make it work. The show is an enjoyable watch, as well as a surprisingly realistic take on the complexity of modern relationships. Hulu’s “High Fidelity” expands upon and improves the source material, a feat that many remakes fail to achieve.