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Some of my best friends are music snobs, so I say this about them with peace and love*:
God, they can be insufferable.
There’s also something admirable and pure and honest (and sometimes almost comical) about their love of certain artists and their rabid loathing of others. When you bring that much passion to your taste in music, you’ve gotta have heart.
Nick Hornby created the quintessential lovable music snob in his 1995 novel “High Fidelity,” which Stephen Frears turned into the immensely entertaining Chicago-set movie of the same name in 2000.
In the book and the movie (and the short-lived Broadway musical), our romantic hero was a guy named Rob who owned a record shop, had very specific rules about making mixtapes and made a playlist of sorts of his top five breakups.
About 20 years after John Cusack’s Rob and Jack Black’s Barry were spinning and selling vinyl, Hulu is dropping a new, 10-part series of “High Fidelity” – only this time the Rob in question is a woman and the record store is in Brooklyn. And while the story arc in many ways adheres closely to the 2000 film, the expanded running time allows for additional subplots and a more in-depth look at Rob’s friendships as well as her romances.
Zoë Kravitz, who’s just about the same age as her mother, Lisa Bonet, was when Bonet had a co-starring role in the Frears film, is an electric and sympathetic bundle of charisma as Rob, who at times breaks the fourth wall and addresses us directly as she remembers past romances and comments on current events in her life.
Rob is the first to admit she’s an emotional fender bender, but she sure has the trappings of a cool life, from her ownership of the hipster Championship Vinyl record store in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to her thrift-store-chic fashion style to the way she effortlessly commands the attention of a room, perhaps without totally realizing the effect she has on men (and some women).
Sure, Rob (short for Robin) can be almost irritatingly smug as she tears into a monologue about how Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is interesting mostly because of all the real-life romantic intrigue involving various band members, and “Tusk” is the better album, or when she says, “Thank you, Ann Peebles,” before dropping the needle on her home turntable to play “I Can’t Stand the Rain” – but she’s acutely aware of her shortcomings and is the first to admit she hasn’t always made the best choices when it comes to relationships.
And just when it seems like Rob might be a little too cool for school, she wins us over with her childlike eating habits (she’s forever spooning “meals” from a bowl) and her openness about how silly and stupid and irrational she has sometimes behaved in the name of love.
In the premiere episode, “Top Five Heartbreaks,” Rob breaks down her most memorable relationships, in chronological order.
One guy was “gorgeous and interesting and just … cool,” but it fizzled out after a year. A boyfriend named Simon captured Rob’s heart when he said, “The things you like are more important than what you ARE like,” but Rob tells us, “Turns out we liked even more of the same things than we thought. He’s gay.”
And then there was Justin. Rob says, “His top five recording artists were Jay-Z, Eminem, Aerosmith, Linkin Park and the Dave Matthews Band. So yeah, he was kind of an a—— … but in retrospect, we were both kind of a——-.”
Jake Lacy (Pete from “The Office”) has a fresh and sincere presence as Clyde, a potential new romantic interest who has just arrived from Colorado and is a nice guy but willing to call out Rob on her pretentious B.S. (in a very charming way).
David Holmes is the aforementioned Simon, who has become a good friend to Rob, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (coming off her scene-stealing work in “Dolemite Is My Name”) has what is essentially the Jack Black role from the 2000 film and is equally fantastic and funny.
As you’d expect, every episode of “High Fidelity” is bursting with pop music and with sometimes-heated exchanges about pop music, but the tunes and talks are the soundtrack for the most important thing of all to Rob.
Learning how to listen to her heart. It’s gonna tell her what to do.
*(“Peace and love, peace and love” is a reference to a viral video message from Ringo Starr, former drummer for The Beatles – the greatest band ever, even though I’m sure some music snobs will scoff at me for saying that.)
All 10 episodes are streaming on Hulu