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Is the 'High Fidelity' TV series worth watching? Zoe Kravitz takes time to find her feet in TV remake

The 2000 feature film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s beloved 1995 novel casts a long shadow over the small-screen rendition

Zoe Kravitz plays the lead character, Rob, in the gender-switching remake. Courtesy Hulu
Zoe Kravitz plays the lead character, Rob, in the gender-switching remake. Courtesy Hulu

After two episodes of the High Fidelity TV series, fans of the 2000 film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s beloved 1995 novel may be wondering what the point of it all is. That’s how similar the show is to Stephen Frears’s romantic-­comedy, which starred John Cusack in the lead role of Rob Gordon.

In the TV series, Zoe Kravitz plays the main character, Rob Brooks, while Da’Vine Joy Randolph makes the scene-­stealing part of Rob’s high-­energy record store employee very much her own, much like Jack Black did 20 years ago.

Kravitz has strong links to High Fidelity as her mother, Lisa Bonet, played the supporting role of singer Marie De Salle in the movie. That clearly made quite the impression on Kravitz, who was 11 at the time, as she is an executive producer on the series.

Primarily set in either Rob’s Brooklyn record store Championship Vinyl or her Crown Heights apartment, High Fidelity revolves around her struggles with her former partner Mac, played by Moroccan-­British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir.

With the assistance of her employees Cherise (Randolph) and Simon (David Holmes), pop culture obsessive Rob uses music, film, art and literature to help her deal with her struggles. This process includes making top five lists and addressing the audience directly, so she can air out her grievances and discuss her past relationships.

This forthright and candid approach is exactly what made the movie stand out, especially when it was combined with the ferocity and humour of Cusack’s performance, which helped audiences overlook how self-centred and rather horrible Gordon was.

'High Fidelity' stars Zoe Kravitz. Courtesy Hulu
Kravitz follows in her mother's footsteps by appearing in the remake of Hornby's book. Courtesy Hulu

So the fact the first two episodes of the series feel like a line-for-line remake of the movie, transplanting the story from Chicago to Brooklyn, makes it feel pointless.

But it shouldn’t be forgotten that the primary duty of this TV adaptation is to bring the story to a new audience. Show runners Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka used the opening act of the movie to lay the foundations for the show, because if they hadn’t, people would have been as furious at them for deviating from the movie.

However, it doesn’t help that after two episodes, the show has not yet established its main storyline, which is Rob’s exploration of her top five heartbreaks, as she visits her former partners so she can uncover why they split up and why she is destined to be alone. Before that storyline become clear, the show feels too aimless and inconsequential, although the rapport between Kravitz, Holmes and Randolph helps to paper over the cracks.

Kravitz's mother, Lisa Bonet, starred in the movie the television show is based on. Courtesy Hulu
Jake Lacy stars with Kravitz. Courtesy Hulu

It’s also difficult to tell how well-suited Kravitz is to the lead role. Not only does she fail to land some of the jokes and humour, especially lines synonymous with the film, but for in early episodes she appears to lack presence.

This is all the more disappointing because of Kravitz’s historic link to High Fidelity.

But Kravitz’s initially lethargic performance, which she uses to show how heart-broken Rob is, doesn’t last. Once she goes on her quest to find her former partners, she lights up the screen, bringing a mixture of cynicism and charm that was not present before.

Having used the source material to establish itself, it is at this point that High Fidelity begins to go its own way and it becomes infinitely better for doing so. Rob’s surprising link to a supporting character opens up a whole new dynamic, as well as a stand-alone episode dedicated to it, while the diversity of its cast allows the series to explore pop culture from a unique vantage point most mainstream TV shows and movies have ignored.

By the end of episode four, High Fidelity manages to walk the line between respecting its source material and giving it a modern and original twist that makes the show feel unique.

It might take a while, but if you give it time, High Fidelity proves its worth, even suggesting there’s plenty more story to enjoy beyond Hornby’s book and the movie.

Updated: February 12, 2020 05:30 PM

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