Book to Film Adaptations: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

High Fidelity is one of those rare instances where the movie is just as good as the book. The two are different, yes, but I count both among my favorites.

High Fidelity: Book vs. Film infographic. Book setting: London, England; Main Character: Rob Fleming. Film setting: Chicago, USA; Main Character: Rob Gordon. Nick Hornby on the film: "At times, it appears to be a film in which John Cusack reads my book." John Cusack on adapting the book: "I knew where everything was in Chicago... I knew 2 or 3 different record shops with a Rob, a Dick, and a Barry in them."

If you’re unfamiliar with High Fidelity‘s basic premise, it’s this: Rob’s longtime girlfriend, Laura, leaves him, and that makes him reconsider what went wrong in his “Top 5 All-Time Break-ups.” Rob works at a record store, and he and his co-workers, Dick and Barry, are music snobs who have long thought, “it’s not who you’re like, but what you like.” There’s lots of Top 5 list-making. Eventually, he must confront why Laura left him and what other things he has neglected in his life.

The book was first published in 1995, and the film was released in 2000. The film version pulls dialogue and the fourth-wall-breaking text almost directly from the book most of the time, and even though the characters are now American, it still works really well. The plot doesn’t so much change, but a few less pertinent scenes (mostly between Rob and his parents) are cut. Jack Black is great as Barry, and John Cusack does a good job playing the perpetually forlorn Rob. Both the book and the movie are ones that I revisit every few years, and they still hold up, even if I’m no longer a high schooler with very specific ideas about “good” music. Maybe I didn’t take quite as long as Rob to grow up, in some ways, but I imagine that to a lot of people, American or British, his process will feel quite familiar. High Fidelity is very funny, very true feeling, and if you haven’t read/watched either, I highly recommend them.


By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

2 replies on “Book to Film Adaptations: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby”

I honestly don’t remember which I did first because they both happened around the same time. Maybe it was that I’d heard of the movie, but since it was a smaller release, it didn’t come to the theater here, and in the meantime I read the book, and then rented the movie.

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