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ACMI Re/commends: High Fidelity

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Benjamin Haller (Membership & Engagement) checks out the new TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity with Zoë Kravitz in the lead role. 

Disclaimer: My all-time favourite #1 author is... Nick Hornby. As a young boy growing up “football mad” in northern England, I remember reading Fever Pitch: A fan’s life (1992), his debut book, cover to cover three times in one day. It was adapted into a feature film starring Colin Firth and Mark Strong in 1997, a superb hidden gem.

The only interest I had beyond football at that time was music, so when Hornby released his third book, High Fidelity (1995), I skipped school, caught the bus into the city, and stood in the Yorkshire rain for an hour before an old lady opened the bookshop to let me buy it. “You’re mad, lad!” she told me. The 2000 US film adaptation starring John Cusack and Jack Black, propelled Hornby to the big time.

So, when I logged into ABC iView on Friday night, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new High Fidelity series starring Zoë Kravitz. So, what did I do? I watched it straight away, of course. Why? Well, it’s like when your favourite band used to release an album at midnight – you just have to stay up all night and listen to it all the way through, again and again. 

The new High Fidelity is a smash hit. In this reimagining of the 2000 film Kravitz is a triumph as Robyn 'Rob' Brooks, whose pokey Brooklyn record store seems to have somehow survived the digital revolution (fun fact: Kravitz’s mother, Lisa Bonet, played one of John Cusack’s love interests in the film). The original story is not only respected but brought up to date with sharp comedic writing and intelligent character development, and the welcome gender switch astutely opens up a whole new (and revised) back catalogue of musical influences to dive into. The series also touches on Rob’s fluid sexuality, another avenue not originally explored in the novel or film.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name, 2019) reprises a similar role to Jack Black’s eccentric love-me, hate-me Barry in the 2000 film in the character of Cherise, a storehand with a unique vision for her music. She steals every scene.

Every good mixtape has a couple of songs that reset the vibe and feel; the series casts a couple of clever cameos to perform their own guitar solos: Parker Posey is wildly charming and mercilessly cruel as spurned artist Noreen Parker, and Debbie Harry provides some dreamy late night advice to Rob as she dances effortlessly around her living room.

As much as my music world needed Fiona Apple’s provocatively brilliant newly released album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, my television world was begging for this show. It’s a perfect pitch for the isolation crowd; an intimate study of our disposition for constant self-analysis, sociological torment and the need to understand our relationships with others. Hey, who said it was going to be easy? Or, if you prefer: Spotify playlists for everyone!

You can watch High Fidelity on ABC iView.


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