A film that caught a moment rather well. One of the moments it caught was the high point of Nick Hornby – the chronicler of a generation that was slightly more conservative, slightly more sentimental than the preceeding one, and had come to accept it. Director Stephen Frears’s version of Hornby’s novel about men and their bloody lists also caught hold of the then current notion that men were all, to some extent, on the autistic spectrum.
Giving that idea flesh is John Cusack as the obsessive, nerdy, list-driven owner of a second-rate record shop. The action has been moved from London to Chicago but vinyl geeks are a global trope and Cusack’s dog-eared, likeable Rob is definitely a geek. In autistic-spectrum terms, as represented by this unrepresentative slice through life, he’s plumb in the middle – not as quiet and withdrawn as his co-worker Dick (Todd Luiso) nor as wildly firecracker as Barry (Jack Black, stealing the film). Rob’s job in this film is to work out how to connect properly with women. Will he get back with Laura (Iben Hjejle)? Should he? Is leaving her off his “Top 5 Girlfriends” list a suitable punishment for her dumping him? Are Top 5 lists really any pursuit for a grown man? Beautifully, believably played, this is a film whose laughs spring from character rather than set-up and pay-off gags. In the shape of the three guys who spend long, event-free afternoons bouncing song titles, “did you know” factoids, nonsensical musings off each other , it’s also got rounded characters we all recognise. And music we probably all recognise too – from Eric B & Rakim and Stevie Wonder to the Chemical Brothers, Elton John and Belle & Sebastian. It’s a really, really nice film.
© Steve Morrissey 2013