In ongoing AV Club feature Scenic Routes, Mike D’Angelo analyzes the importance of specific film scenes. His most recent article, he makes an argument for High Fidelity as Jack Black’s star-making vehicle, specifically his character Barry’s introduction to the film.
High Fidelity was my favorite film in late high school/early college. These days, the shittier aspects of Rob’s (John Cusack) personality are more glaring and the endless ending is harder to tolerate, but I still have a great affection for it. (Especially now that I live in Chicago! I’ve been to the intersection of Milwaukee and Honore! [It’s super gentrified!] I read the Reader!) Jack Black’s performance remains one of the film’s strongest aspects, and my affection for him as an actor has the same staying power that the film does, even though my film snobbery prevents me from seeing a fair chunk of his oeuvre. I can’t get enough of his boundless energy and masterful ability to put some stank on a scene. His work in Bernie is probably my favorite because those impulses are reined in enough to convincingly portray someone as gentle as Bernie Tiede, but emerge organically through his character’s love of music and theater. (This scene is an excellent example, both because he’s being so dang adorable and because the bit player he’s singing to can’t keep a straight face.) However, High Fidelity is probably the filmic apex of that Black magic. Not only is Barry well-written, but given that he’s a pretty one-dimensional character, Black has the freedom to take him to the sublime heights of ridiculousness without losing the audience.
For all the side-eye I give fat character tropes on this blog, I do love when fat characters are vivacious agents of chaos. It’s both a subversion of fat = slow/lazy and an outright denial of respectability politics, a grab at hyper-visibility and confrontation that provides a vicarious thrill for a fat introvert like yours truly. Even if the institution doesn’t actually change once including someone like Jack Black or Rebel Wilson on the A-list, it feels good to see them win widespread recognition for playing a character who challenges everyone around them.