The remake machine has given us many unnecessary incarnations of our favorite stories. In particular, Hulu recently adapted the wonderful 1994 film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” into a truly ghastly, overlong season of streaming television. All this set my expectations low for Hulu’s “High Fidelity,” a remake of the Stephen Frears 2000 adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel. Instead, the Zoe Kravitz led adaptation may be the best version of the story yet. The new “High Fidelity” blends the rough edges of its lead record store owner with true joy and appreciation for music, love, and heartbreak. Never has wallowing in one’s own dating misery ever felt so fun.
We meet Rob (Kravitz), a record store owner, fresh off a traumatic breakup from Mac (Kingsley Ben-Aird). This inspires one of Rob’s favorite activities, list-making. The list in question: Top Five Heart-breaks. What follows is a woman’s journey through her past five heartbreaks. She searches for the answer of why she can’t find happiness and a stable relationship. While this is all going on, Rob falls for Clyde (Jake Lacy), a straight-laced guy who’s optimism and good-heartedness balances her saltier qualities.
Zoe Kravitz announces herself as a star with this performance. Her interpretation of Rob feels like a soul sister to John Cusack’s Rob from the 2000 film of the same name, rather than a direct interpretation. The gender swap of the role allows for a sharp, fresh new take on the lovelorn record store owner stuck in their past. Kravitz’s Rob resembles a nostalgia steeped Fleabag, and not just because Kravitz breaks the fourth wall in a similar way to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Kravitz embraces what makes Rob a bad potential partner. She’s stuck in her past, pushes people away and has a level of narcissism that’s potentially unhealthy. But neither the show nor Kravitz makes any excuse for Rob’s behavior. To love Rob is to take her at face value. There are a passion and warmth to her that comes with lots of baggage. Yet, who among us makes it to thirty without plenty of baggage?
While Rob’s relationships provide the structure for “High Fidelity,” the show comes most alive during scenes in the record store, Championship Vinyl. After a breakout performance in “Dolemite is My Name,” Da’Vine Joy Randolph once again shines. She steals every scene possible as Cherise, Rob’s co-worker. Cherise talks a big game and hopes to have a music career one day. Her enthusiasm jumps off the screen. It’s impossible not to take notice and fall in love with her.
If Randolph plays every scene at a 10, David H. Holmes takes everything down to a 3. Holmes plays Rob’s best friend and heartbreak #3, Simon. The two broke up when Simon comes out as gay, but remained co-workers and friends. Simon takes the reigns of the show for one episode late in the season to walk through his “Top 5 Heartbreak” list. It’s a powerful episode that captures what it’s like to come out later in life and navigate a new dating world.
Nostalgia has become the bread and butter for so many TV shows and movies recently. It serves as the foundation of “Stranger Things'” success. Additionally, it’s built in to many recent hit movies, such as “Captain Marvel” crashing through a Blockbuster. On paper, “High Fidelity” appears to be yet another show using nostalgia as a cheap trick to win over Gen-X and millennial audiences. However, the show recognizes the twee hipster nonsense that is owning a record/cassette-only store in 2020 Brooklyn. Rather than look at this store with cynicism, the show’s affection for vinyl unlocks the earnestness at the show’s core. Rob recognizes the healing power of music. The vehicle in which music history is recorded and enjoyed only enhances one’s appreciation for it.
This belief that quality music should be enjoyed by all leads to some wonderful episodic jaunts. One of the funniest episodes involves Rob and Clyde checking out a legendary record collection being sold by an eccentric, spurned experimental artist (Parker Posey). After catching her husband cheating, she’s looking to sell his prized records for $20. Her plan is to frame the bill and give to him as a punishment for his misdeeds. Rob must decide whether she wants to stick it to this chauvinist asshole and buy his records, or respect the well-curated collection. Art is for all people, not just the people she decides as “good” or “worthy,” right?
It goes without saying, but the soundtrack is utterly incredible. “High Fidelity” is one of the few shows where you do not want to skip the end credits while binge-watching. Every choice feels deliberate and thoughtful. It’s nice to sit with a carefully chosen song as the credits play, reflecting on the episode at hand. This speaks to why “High Fidelity” works overall as a show. You just don’t want it to end. The ending of season one proves that there’s more to come from Rob and the employees of Championship Vinyl. I, for one, can’t wait to spend more time with these amazing characters.