Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cusack family is featured in High Fidelity

John Cusack and his sister Joan Cusack both star in High Fidelity, a 2000 movie based on the novel by Nick Hornby.

A few years ago in 2000, I remember vividly when the record-store-based movie High Fidelity was being promoted in interviews with John Cusack and his older sister Joan.  John, who I first remembered playing a teenager in the movie Sixteen Candles, helped to write and co-produce the movie, which is based closely on the 1995 book of the same name by Nick Hornby. John cast three other members of his talented family: his older sister Joan, who I also first saw in Sixteen Candles, his younger sister Susie, and their father Richard "Dick" Cusack.

The movie is showing tonight, Dec. 2, Monday Dec. 3, and on Tuesday Dec. 4 on television on  Sundance and AMC, the American Movie Channel network. Times are listed below.

I immediately went out to see the movie as soon as it was released, and I consider it to be one of the best of the year 2000, along with other fine music-filled and interesting artsy movies such as Almost Famous, O Brother Where Art Thou, and Billy Elliott. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe, along with numerous other honors. Writers John Cusack, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg, and D.V. DeVincentis were nominated for a BAFTA award for best adapted screenplay, and Jack Black won a Blockbuster Entertainment award for best supporting actor in a comedy/romance.

John Cusack took on the title role of Rob Gordon, a vintage collectible record store owner in Chicago, who's live-in girlfriend Laura (played by Iben Hjejle) is fed up and finally leaving him. His older sister, Joan, is cast in the role of Liz, a mutually supportive friend and confident.

Throughout the movie, Rob counts down his top five past relationship breakups, evaluating what went wrong and why he's once again, alone. He calls up each of his old girlfriends, arranges to meet with them, then rehashes the past, looking for clues pointing to why his romances always seem to fail.

There's Caroline Fortis (played by Natasha Gregson Wagner), who was his first kiss in junior high school, but she kissed a different boy a few days later much to the dismay of Rob. Then, there was Penny Hardwick (played by Joelle Carter) who dated him in high school, but would never put out. One of his lost loves was Charlie Nicholson (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), who he dated in college. Gorgeous, popular, and seemingly out of his reach, Rob was mesmerized by the very idea of being Charlie's boyfriend. Then, there is the beautiful and mysterious singer Marie de Salle (played by Lisa Bonet), who he goes to see perform. There are a few missteps and stark awakenings along Rob's journey of self-discovery. For instance, past girlfriend Sarah Kendrew (played by Lili Taylor) has now become unbalanced and is struggling to keep her sanity while on prescriptive medications.

Paralleling the plot are scenes in the record store where the two employees, Dick (played by Todd Louiso) and Barry (played by Jack Black), count down the top five songs of various made-up categories, such as: Monday songs, songs to play at a funeral, first songs on first albums, and songs to make love to. Rare and unusual tidbits of music trivia, much of it from the original novel, are sprinkled throughout the script, and we even get to see a surprise cameo by Bruce Springsteen, as himself, who gives advice on breaking up in his song, "Bobby Jean." Music by local Chicago bands is featured throughout. Even Jack Black performs.

Other famous actors make appearances in minor roles: Tim Robbins is a zen-like neighbor named Ian and Sara Gilbert is Anaugh, a record store patron. Luke Perry is a dinner party guest. Margaret Travolta, John Travolta's sister, provides an amazingly realistic and humorous portrayal as Rob's mother.

In the end of the movie, we come to the conclusion that Rob Gordon's perception of his failed past relationships is perhaps the only major part of his behavior which is in error. It turns out that not all the girlfriends left him, he has forgotten that he broke up with some of them as well. Some are perhaps better left alone as he rediscovers why they simply weren't right for him. In all cases, we find that like many men, he has failed to communicate his feelings properly. Throughout this process, he learns to open up and bare his soul, which leads to a realistic, yet somewhat happy ending.

Dick Cusack as the minister at Laura's father's funeral.

Susie Cusack (at right) plays a dinner guest at Charlie's (Catherine Zeta Jones) dinner party.

Notes on the Cusack family

The two other Cusacks are cast in minor roles. During a later scene in the movie, Patriarch Richard "Dick" Cusack plays the role of the minister at Laura's father's funeral. Sibling Susie Cusack is cast as a party guest at Charlie's dinner party.

There are two other Cusack siblings in the business who do not appear in the movie: Ann and Bill, who are equally talented. Ann Cusack, like Joan and John, is quite busy, having recently wrapped up her regularly appearing role as Susan Grant in the Grey's Anatomy spin-off show, "Private Practice." She is currently guest starring on several television shows.

Their mother, Nancy Cusack, though not in the business, is a former mathematics teacher and political activist, a passion held by her children.

Sadly, patriarch Dick Cusack passed away only three years after the release of this movie in 2003 due to pancreatic cancer. He has left behind a legacy in their hometown of Evanston Illinois, where he worked to preserve a school and turn it into the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, where his own children trained to be come actors.

High Fidelty is airing:
  • Sunday Dec 2 at 10 PM on Sundance
  • (channel 179 or 374 on Brighthouse in Orlando)
  • Monday Dec 3 at 7 PM on Sundance
  • Tuesday, Dec 4 at 3 AM on AMC
  • (channels 48 or 1355 HD on Brighthouse in Orlando)
  • Tuesday, Dec 4 at 9:15 AM on AMC