TV Reviews

Hulu's "High Fidelity" Finds Its Groove with Zoë Kravitz

The new series about a lovelorn Brooklyn record store owner nods at the Nick Hornby novel and John Cusack film but successfully goes its own way.

Phillip Caruso/Hulu

Zoe Kravitz plays Rob Brooks in the Hulu reboot of "High Fidelity."

Zoë Kravitz's well-produced, gender-flipped reboot of High Fidelity plays out far better than the usual remake.

The 10-episode Hulu series, which began streaming today, takes its framework and other elements from the 1995 Nick Hornby novel and the 2000 movie starring John Cusack and builds something surprisingly relevant and new.

In the new take on High Fidelity, Rob is still an intelligent but rudderless music-loving thirty-something record store owner navigating a string of bad relationships with the help of amazing soundtracks. Only now, she's a bisexual black woman in Brooklyn, rather than a straight white male in Chicago.

However, that doesn't entirely explain why the Hulu version of High Fidelity feels so different from its other iterations.

Maybe it's Kravitz. She plays Rob with warmth and brains, tempered with awkwardness in emotional situations. It makes for a far more likable lead character than Cusack's "sad bastard," whose rage occasionally boiled over.

And because she's more likable, the people around her are also more likable. Her record store employees, Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), are far more nurturing than the ones in the film, which included a scenery-chewing Jack Black in his breakout movie role. Unlike previous versions, Rob now also has a seemingly normal, supportive family and her ex-boyfriends don't generally seem that horrible – though her ex-girlfriend, Kat (perhaps a nod to Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played the analogous role in the film) does seem pretty awful as an Instagram influencer.

Maybe the improvement is in the writing. In the new version, the clever banter from the movie and the book have deeper ramifications. For example, to start the second episode, Rob and her employees debate whether or not to sell Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album to a customer.

"How does it benefit society to hold Quincy's genius hostage because the dude who sang over his sh*t ended up being a full-blown child molester?" Rob says, swayed by her love of producer Quincy Jones' horn charts on the album.

"Where'd you get that from, Rob?" Cherise asks. "'Convenient Opinions R Us'?"

"You still listen to a dude who raps in a MAGA hat, so..." replies Rob.

"Having sh*tty politics and a second-grade understanding of American history is a tiny bit different than being a goddamn child molester," replies Cherise.

They keep going, touching on Charles Manson, mental health issues, and the idea that few artists are unquestionably good people, then quickly changing the subject.

Thanks to the luxury of being a series rather than a film, High Fidelity can spend some time on these interesting characters and their interesting lives and ideas. In fact, though Rob counts down his "All-Time Top Five Most Memorable Heartbreaks" in this version like all the others, the series improves the further it deviates from that original framework.

Kravitz has clearly lived with this material for a long time. (Her mom, Lisa Bonet, played the small, but memorable role of musician Marie DeSalle in the movie, and Kravitz names the club the characters hang out in DeSalle's as a homage.) She also knows its shortcomings. Though Hornby's novel was influential in popularizing the idea of boiling pop culture down into lists, 25 years later the Internet is overflowing with Top 5 lists, and every listicle imaginable has already been written. Luckily, though that construct seems a bit dated, Rob's issues with her love life—and her worries about not having one—feel timeless. And once again, the crisp writing serves her well.

"Next week, on 'The Sad Lady Show,' we're going to team up," Rob says one bummed-out night, watching her neighbor across the street also smoke a cigarette alone. "Fight the loneliness together with cats and cigarettes and reruns of 'Murder She Wrote.'"

But in this "High Fidelity," those moods never last long. Rob believes in the transformative power of playlists, and her life is always one great song away from turning around for good.

You know those movies that have been parodied, memed, and referenced so much that you feel like you've seen them–but you never have and, honestly, why would you bother?

You know that at the end of Taxi Driver Travis Bickle may or may not hallucinate a violent episode, and you've seen people dress up in Robert De Niro's utility jacket, black shades, and weird Roman soldier haircut at every Halloween party you've ever attended. You know that Scarface's Tony Montana screams, "Say hello to my little friend" while wearing a suit with giant lapels and holding a machine gun. How do you know this? No, you've never seen the movie; the fact is that the sheer masterpiece of a few key scenes capturing the climax of a film can overshadow the entire production. Sure, you want to sit down to watch them "one day," but you just never get around to it.

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There were horror writers before Stephen King and there will almost certainly be horror writers after Stephen King, but there will never be another writer as able to capture the world's imagination so thoroughly with his ability to terrify in one moment and inspire hope in the next.

Not only has King written nearly 90 bone-chilling and engrossing books in his decades-long career, his work has also been adapted for film or TV nearly 80 times. Of course, the problem with adapting a book to film is that the film version rarely lives up to the book. With that said, out of nearly 80 adaptions, a few have to go right sometimes.

We give you the definitive list of the top 10 Stephen King movies ever made.

10. Children of the Corn (1984)

Based on King's 1977 short story of the same name, Children of the Corn gained a cult following and inspired a film franchise despite lackluster reviews. The film follows a young couple as they drive through a small town in Nebraska, where they soon discover that the children of the town are beholden by an evil force called "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," who demands that the children sacrifice all the adults in the town to ensure a successful harvest. It's full of unintentionally hilarious 80s effects and tends to feel silly at points, but it still manages to offer plenty of scary moments.