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From Book To Film

When adapting a book into a movie, screenplay writers have a rule: this is to make the movie as engaging as possible. Some movies are more interesting than the books, some books are better than the movies. It all depends on the presentation of the film’s production company. This paper will shift between the book and the movie in order to present the similarities and the differences between the two. In 2000, Stephen Frears directed the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack.

For one, the main character in the book is named Rob Fleming. In the movie, John Cusack plays Rob Gordon. The profession of the main character in the book and the film is the same – he is a record store owner. However, the setting is different. In the book, Rob Fleming owned a record store called Championship Vinyl in London. In the movie, Rob Gordon owned a record store, also called Championship Vinyl, in Chicago. The conflict in the movie remains loyal in the book. Rob was recently dumped by his girlfriend Laura, played by Danish-American actress Iben Hjejle.

This is where the book and the movie begin. Rob and his friends Dick and Barry (in the movie played by Jack Black and Todd Louiso, who is the male nanny in “Jerry Maguire”) spend the idle hours discussing songs and coming up with their top-five lists about anything and nothing. Clearly, in the book and in the movie, this trio are experts when it comes to music. In order to cope with his heartache, Rob came up with a list of his five most memorable break-up. This reflection led to him contacting his ex-girlfriends.

In chronological order, his most memorable split-ups are Alison Ashworth, Penny Hardwick, Jackie Allen, Charlie Nicholson and Sarah Kendrew. Notice that his recent break-up, the one with Laura, does not make the list. In the movie, Rob’s ex-girlfriends are played by Shannon Stillo (Allison), Joelle Carter (Penny), Natasha Gregson Wagner (instead of Jackie, the name is Caroline in the movie), Catherine Zeta Jones (Charlie) and Lili Taylor (Sarah. ) Alison was Rob’s first girlfriend. He was 12 and 13 which pretty much explains why the relationship only lasted three days.

His relationship with Penny ended because she wouldn’t allow him to get to second base. It was ironic that she lost her virginity to another guy three weeks after. Jackie in the book and Caroline in the movie was the girlfriend of his best friend. By hooking up with her, the friendship ended. It wasn’t worth it because he and Jackie/Caroline eventually broke up. Sarah was his college girlfriend for two years. It failed because Rob was quite insecure so she left him for another guy. Charlie was another average person, just like Rob.

They had nothing in common. The lives of the girlfriends and their relationship with Rob were clearly presented in the book and the movie since this is a crucial element in the telling of the story. The character build-up of the main character Rob depends on his relationship with these women and on how they relate with him. Now on the big screen, what we see next is Rob’s introspection and his quest to find his wrongdoings. We also clearly see the five prototypes of the typical heterosexual man. Allison (Shannon Stillo) is The First Kiss / Crush.

Penny (Joelle Carter) is the Adolescent Urgency / Loss of Virginity. Caroline (Jackie in the book, played by Natasha Gregson Warner) is The Woman Out of His League, Sarah (Lili Taylor) is the Rebound Best Friend/ Possible Soul Mate and Charlie (Catherine Zeta Jones) is The One True Love He Isn’t Even Aware Of. Through out the whole process, Rob realizes that re-examining these failed relationships and the death of Laura’s father allow them to get back together. The relationship is concretized with the launch of Rob’s new life. This is the revival of his career as a disc-jockey.

The movie and the book clearly show this change in Rob’s life. In between, Rob has interests in other women. Perhaps, all men can relate. Only difference is that Rob realizes these are mere fantasies and he idealizes them because he has not yet seen their less appealing and negative sides. On the other hand, his relationship with Laura has always been impartial because it is a real one. The moral of the book is that the fulfillment and the happiness from his being with Laura is worth the downsides that they experience as a couple on an occasional basis. (Hornby, 211)

The first part of the book tells how Rob analyzes these previous relationships. He tries to figure out the reason why these failed. The second part consists of how Rob copes with the loss. It describes Rob as somehow lost and distraught. At the same time, he is also relieved because he can pursue other women. However, this creates a problem because he still longs for Laura. In the beginning of the film, Rob asks “What came first, the misery or the music? ” This serves as the starting point for Rob to investigate the reason for the downfall of his greatest break-ups.

A reader can say that Rob is self-centered and he has not completely matured. This element is obvious in the book as well as in the big screen adaptation. His life revolves around one relationship after another. The part where he re-organizes his collection of albums strikes an emotion in him that makes him realize that his life is empty, therefore arising the need to fill it with something. Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” has sold over a million copies since publication. It captures the sense of being lost, loneliness and pointlessness which a number of people can relate to.

As for the movie, when it was distributed in 2000, it’s tagline was “A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favorites. ” Take for example, the discoveries Rob makes in his analysis of his previous relationships. Alison married the boy he ditched him for. This only comes to show that young love can be the real thing, regardless the age. Penny was madly in love with him when they were together. She only wanted to wait for the right time to have sex. When Rob dumped her, she was so mad at him that she didn’t even bother to say no to the next guy who groped her.

Jackie/Caroline went back to Rob’s former best friend and they got married. The three of them had a meal together. Rob found them really boring. He explained this with “they’ve been married too long, and therefore have nothing to talk about. ” He went out for pizza with Sarah. She regretted leaving him. He also managed to contact Charlie. It was ironic that this time he found out that she was quite profound. During the time he was separated from Laura, Rob slept with another woman. That was when he realized how empty and meaningless his life was.

He remembered the time when Laura was pregnant and Rob had a fling. This led to Laura aborting the baby. At this point, Rob was determined to have Laura back in his life. Men are polygamous. That is a cultural adage. They say you cannot tie men down. However, each man reaches a point where he feels that it is time to be with the one. This is reflected in “High Fidelity. ” There are so many important points that can be discussed in “High Fidelity. ” An example is a closer look on what is important in Rob’s life. He may be lost and lonely because he personally feels that his life has no meaning.

That is why after realizing that Laura and being a disc jockey are the two best things in his life, he no longer feels that insignificant. Hornby associates Rob’s actions with his beliefs in life. His attitudes toward music, women, life, himself, love and morality clearly explain why he is the man that he is. There may be a root to all of Rob’s problems. “High Fidelity” appealed to most men because each one of them is Rob Fleming in one way or another. Cusack, known for his charm, is at his best here. He gives Rob Gordon a good hearted, sarcastic anti-hero angle.

He is fearless and funny. At the same time, he is a fragile 30-something male looking for love. Cusack is not only the lead actor. He is also the co-writer and producer of the film. The approach of the film has Cusack breaking through the fourth wall and directly speaking into the camera, as if this was a documentary and not a film. However, the direction of Frears makes the film enlightening and not intrusive. If the person watching the movie also read the book, he understands why it is quite important to know what the hero Rob is thinking. (Sanger, 123)

Cusack is the likable average guy who serves as the inner voice of Man. He has a nonchalant and casual way of speaking. He is a smart aleck but he is a good guy. This is quite reminiscent of Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything. ” “High Fidelity” is a guy flick and Black and Louiso manage to provide the machismo comedy. Black is outspoken while Louiso is the silent type. Both have chemistry with Cusack which makes the trio lovable to watch onscreen. Since the director is a fellow Englishman, he knows both the English elements (Hornby is British) and the American arcana that are needed to make the movie work.

He allows the characters to pace themselves from one set up to the next. He also skillfully keeps the smart patter in the books and brings it to life in the movie. Readers were worried when they found out that the screen adaptation was set in Chicago. However, after getting pass through the arbitrary adaptations, Cusack and company did a wonderful job in adapting the novel. The strength of the movie is Cusack’s performance. He has carved out a niche in playing regular guys throughout his career. He doesn’t look like the boy next door and he is not sensitive.

He has so many dimensions that a number of men who watch his movies can relate with, therefore making him the perfect actor to play Rob. Perhaps the most important element in both the movie and the book is that “High Fidelity” brings into our attention the lives of music geeks. There are the stereotype music geeks and there are the music geeks who are snobs. There are characters in the movie that have snotty attitudes all because of their genuine love for music. They may be in low-paying jobs but because they love what they do, they do not mind their empty wallets.

Naturally there are some parts in the books that did not make it in the film. Some would even claim that Laura’s character isn’t as developed in the movie as she is in the novel but “High Fidelity. ” There are also different endings. In the book, Rob’s relationship with Laura was concretized after he revived his disc jockey career. In the movie, Rob created a record label called Top 5 Records. Laura helped him push the idea further by organizing an event where Rob was the DJ. Rob then made a new mix-tape for Laura.

Movie adaptations of popular books are sometimes changed in order to reach into the audience more. This is also why the setting was moved from London to Chicago. At least, in Chicago, more Americans can relate, therefore the reason for John Cusack in playing the lead. When you think London, most people deem it dreary. When you think Chicago, you think it chilly and cool because of the wind but there is still some warmth in the place because of its radio stations which is very important in the whole storytelling of “High Fidelity.

” The ending in the movie pretty much added Laura into Rob’s life. This is because those who read the book would say that Laura’s character was not really built up in the movie. At least, with the movie ending, it gives the audience the idea how important Laura is in his life. Whatever similarities or differences there are between the film and the book, “High Fidelity” is a story everyone must know of.

Works Cited

Hornby, Nick, High Fidelity, Sanger, Keith, The Language of Fiction, Routledge Press, 2001

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