The Best Episode of Hulu's 'High Fidelity' Is Based on a Deleted Scene from the Movie
And it stars Parker Posey!!!
Watching Hulu's High Fidelity this weekend alongside my boyfriend was a case study in just how the 2000 movie adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel has lodged its way into some people's (read: men's) brains. Sure, I know a lot of the greatest hits -- Jack Black dancing to "Walking on Sunshine"; "I will now sell five copies of 'The Three EPs' by the Beta Band" -- but my number one guy was able to identify every single time the show was riffing on the film. It got to the point where he could predict which reference was coming just before it hit.
This fidelity (hehe) to the original is either a nice homage or one of the series' downfalls, depending on where you land on the Zoë Kravitz incarnation as a whole. In 2020, even the most ardent fan can likely acknowledge the John Cusack version doesn't pass the smell test of modern day feminism, unintentionally becoming an exploration of the worst kind of dude. When Kravitz's Rob, a millennial woman living in New York, spouts his Gen X platitudes the show starts to find itself in uncanny valley territory.
Which is why I was happy to encounter something unfamiliar when I reached the fifth episode, "Uptown," starring a magnificent (as usual) Parker Posey. I only realized later that it, too, was a spin on a scene from Hornby's book that was written and shot for the movie, only to end up on the cutting room floor. (It's been a while since I read it, okay?) Except, instead of yet another rehash of oft-quoted dialogue, the episode expands and deepens what was once a touched-upon scenario.
In all the versions of High Fidelity, Rob is invited to a rich lady's home to inspect an incredible record collection. He/she is astonished by the quality of the albums, but is taken aback when the woman reveals that, a) they belong to her cheating spouse, and b) she wants a paltry fee for them in order to punish said cheating husband. The deleted sequence from the movie, which features Beverly D'Angelo as the put-upon wife, makes it a quick interaction. Rob is enticed by the great music, but feels too bad for the guy in the scenario and can't bring himself to make the deal. For Kravitz's Rob, it's more of a true conundrum.
Part of the reason it works so well is obviously Parker Posey. The character, now called Noreen, is no anonymous fancy person: She's an eccentric Parker Posey fancy person who bounds down the stairs of her gorgeous Upper West Side townhouse papier-mâché covering her hands blaming Yoko -- Ono, presumably -- for getting her into the craft. Noreen is an artist, whose pieces are hilarious meditations on her "personal tragedies." (Think: A bust of her mother made out of pills. A horse or maybe dog comprised of the stuffed animals she couldn't have as a child because of allergies.) Her latest artistic triumph will be selling her husband's beloved records for $20 and framing the bill. From Party Girl to Dazed and Confused to Best in Show, Posey has an ability to make the most deranged of characters glamorous and alluring, and she does so here. Noreen's no simple vengeful spouse. She's a vengeful spouse making fucked-up art, which is rad.
Rob wants to give Noreen's ex the benefit of the doubt, so she drags Clyde (Jake Lacy) -- the nice guy hook-up she has dragged along on this excursion because he has a car -- to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel where they easily identify the cheater himself, played by Jeffrey Nordling, who also played Renata's cheating husband on Big Little Lies. (He has a type!) Rob quickly learns he's a sexist dick, a guy who assumes she doesn't know anything about music because she's a woman. She proves him wrong by ranting about Wings, and marches back to Noreen's where she... still can't go through with the sale because, as we later learn, she herself is also a cheater. (I'll admit to being thrown by the Wings rant because, frankly, what non-boomer knows that much about fucking Wings?)
All High Fidelity Robs are cheaters. The big reveal of the show is that Rob cheated on her fiancée Mac (Kinglsey Ben-Adir) the same night they got engaged, which arguably is not as bad as cheating on your pregnant girlfriend, contributing to her decision to get an abortion, and then telling her that you're looking around for someone new. (Did I mention that the movie has aged poorly?) Still, now that Rob is a woman, we have to consider the fact that she's essentially choosing the dipshit dude over the awesome woman he wronged because she herself feels like a dipshit. Because Kravitz's Rob is so clearly modeled on Cusack's, the show never really demonstrates an interest in getting into the gender dynamics that its mere existence warrants. But Posey's presence brings them to the fore.
Noreen clearly dwells on her shit just as much as Rob does, except instead of moping around, she turns her damage into weird-ass art. There's a lot to unpack in the way that Rob can see herself in Noreen's husband, but can't see herself in Noreen. Kravitz's Rob is not only grappling with her own shitty behavior, but also a heaping dose of internalized sexism. Perhaps a second season, freed from the narrative of its predecessors, can dig into that more. For the time being, at least we have the memory of Posey, swanning around in a jumpsuit, screaming about how we shouldn't feel badly about the mistakes we make because we're all just humans. Now, leave me alone while I listen to Belle and Sebastian and other sad bastard music.
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