TV Reviews
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.

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

Phillip Caruso/Hulu

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.

TV

Baby Yoda Choked a B*tch & Storm Troopers Vape

"The Mandalorian" Episode 7 Review

Let's get right to it. Baby Yoda is a kinky sexist.

14 minutes deep in Episode 7 of "The Mandalorian," the show's protagonist arm wrestles Cara Dune (Gina Carano), a female ally, onboard his starship. Seeing this, Baby Yoda reaches out and uses the Force to choke Cara. She immediately pulls back from the match, clenching her throat, desperately trying to free herself from the attack. Right then, Baby Yoda tightens his grasp to finish the job.

Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Finally, Mando intervenes, reprimanding Baby Yoda and disrupting his Force hold on the helpless woman. Many will defend BY, claiming he was just trying to protect Mando. But let's be real. Force choking is established in the Star Wars universe as a DARK SIDE technique. It doesn't come from a wellspring of loyalty or heroism, it bubbles up from an abyss of perversion, sick fantasies, and rage. It's clear that if uninterrupted, BY would have choked Cara to death, and would have liked it.

Now if you got off as good as I did from that scene, it's time for a reflective and satisfying smoke break. Luckily, Storm Troopers (or more specifically, Scout Troopers) brought the vape.

Scout Trooper Vaping Cloud God

Some ignorant fools will claim the smoke there is actually just exhaust in the background. But ya boy knows vape clouds when he sees them. And if you're a true fan, you know that there is precedence for this sort of thing in this galaxy. In Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) Obi-Wan is offered "death sticks" while clubbing, which StarWars.com claims contain "highly addictive substance, delivered inside luminescent sticks, was a favorite among desperate addicts and foolish thrill-seekers." Sounds like some real bomb ass dank ass.

Obi-Wan being offered Death Sticks Get Lit

Some other stuff happens in this episode as well. Flashing back to Baby Yoda, the child uses his Force abilities to heal Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) after Greef was attacked by some poisonous, flying bat monster. So let's get this straight. When it's a woman, the little creeper (who, keep in mind is a 50 year old man) tries to choke her out. But when it comes to Greef Carga (a man, presented until now as an enemy), he will tenderly erase all wounds with his devil magic.

Anyway, it's a great episode and probably my favorite so far. 9/10.

Merritt Wever and Toni Collette in Unbelieveable

Beth Dubber / Netflix

The race for the 2020 Emmys already has impressive contenders. On Netflix's Unbelievable, the trio of Kaitlyn Dever, Toni Collette, and Merritt Wever should not only receive nominations but win for their moving performances.

Unbelievable is inspired by the 2015 Pulitzer-winning ProPublica and The Marshall Project's report, "An Unbelievable Story of Rape," which chronicles the 2008-2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases. Kaitlyn Dever plays Marie Adler, a teenager who experienced a brutal assault and rape at the hands of an attacker who broke into her apartment in 2008. At first, the police showed sympathy and care towards Marie. However, due to her crippling anxiety and inability to lean on and trust those in power, Marie began to forget and alter tiny details in the assault after days of constant torment and questioning from the detectives. Instead of focusing on the big picture (i.e.finding the culprit), the police berated Marie for these minute details and eventually coerced her into lying about the rape. Then they charged Marie with filing a false report and dropped the case entirely.

The pilot displays Marie's tragedy and its aftermath in the community. The episode includes harrowing and disturbing flashbacks to the night of Marie's assault. The 58-minute episode is tear-jerking with its depiction of the police's lack of compassion and the overall negligence.

Unbelievable | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com

In particular, the show gives Dever a chance to showcase her impressive acting ability. The 22-year-old is having a landmark year thanks to her starring role in Booksmart. Dever's performance is raw, gut-wrenching, and powerful. Throughout the series, her character's arc is uncomfortable to watch. You find yourself wanting to look away but feel compelled to see for yourself how the system failed this poor victim.

After the pilot, the series takes a much-needed emotional break from Marie's saga and introduces two new characters, Detective Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Detective Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever). Rasmussen and Duvall are detectives in neighboring Colorado towns who are brought together in 2011 when they discover similar characteristics in their respective rape cases. By sharing case details and interviews from new victims, it becomes clear that the same attacker in Colorado is more than likely the same criminal who assaulted Marie in Washington three years prior. Essentially, the series becomes two shows in one: a tragic look into Marie's case in 2008 and a buddy cop drama about two female detectives working together to solve the case.

The chemistry between Collette and Wever is magnetic. Collette's foul-mouthed and witty Rasmussen counteracts and meshes perfectly with Wever's patient and empathetic Duvall. While Marie's story is excruciating to witness, Rasmussen's and Duvall's relationship is far more entertaining and enjoyable. Collette and Wever keep the audience entertained and engaged despite discussing tough matters of sexual assault and domestic violence. The quest to find the serial rapist wraps you into the story and keeps you coming back even if it means revisiting disturbing case details.


Kaitlyn Dever Kaitlyn Dever in UnbelievableBeth Dubber / Netflix

Unbelievable has rightly been called one of the best shows of 2019 by Vulture, and both the series and its actors deserve Emmy nominations in the limited series categories next year (they sadly missed the cut off date for the 2019 Emmys). Both Collette and Wever have previously won Emmys (Collette for United States of Tara and Wever for Nurse Jackie and Godless), while Dever has given multiple noteworthy performances so far in her young career.

Sexual assault and victim shaming is a tricky topic to portray onscreen because of its sensitivity and likeness to real crimes. Marie's case is just one of the many sexual assault cases that are reported each day. According to RAINN, one American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. That's why Unbelievable treats this subject with the professionalism and respect it deserves. Thanks to three superb performances that channel the trauma of the case so expertly, Unbelievable is a difficult, but necessary watch.

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