Although it didn’t come in at #1 at the box office over its opening weekend, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is certainly John Cusack’s most notable movie in years.
I’ve been in many independent record stores that highly resembled Rob’s shop Championship Vinyl with every surface covered in rock 'n roll posters, promotional stickers, and concert flyers. Between that and Rob’s apartment, there is no end to trying to identify every cool rock signifier in sight – oh, there’s Sonic Youth’s “Goo”!
There are so many great lines, most of which directly from the Hornby novel, that still hit close to home, but after this long they sting in a good way:
“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
“No woman in the history of the world is having better sex than the sex you are having with Ian…in my head.”
“Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many dos and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
That last quote, incidentally, I've gotten as a sound sniplet on many mix-tapes then later CDR comps - an obvious choice but a good one.
As much as I love this film I have some reservations.
In a scene set at the now defunct Chicago club, the Lounge Axe, Rob’s just as musically obsessive employees Dick and Barry (Todd Louiso and Jack Black) fantasize about wanting to date a musician. “I want to live with a musician. They’d write songs at home and ask me what I think of them; maybe include one of our private little jokes in the liner notes.”
Uh, no you wouldn’t. As obsessive as these guys are they would be jealously tortured by the nights when their dream musician would be at a late seemingly never ending recording session or out on the road sleeping in hotel or van with their fellow band mates. I’m just saying, because, yes, I dated a musician. Of course, I realize that their tunnel vision delusion may be a crucial point of social satire.
I would never call this film a “rom com” because the only thing our protagonist is truly romantic about is music. Even as it settles into a happy ending grove with Rob adding Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” to a mix-tape for Laura, you get the sense that the just reconciled relationship is still doomed. The film essentially plays on an endless loop as real life on again, off again relationships often do.
So, 10 years later the question isn’t does HIGH FIDELITY still hold up, because of course it does. As Rob puts it: “It would be nice to think that since I was 14, times have changed. Relationships have become more sophisticated. Females less cruel. Skins thicker. Instincts more developed.” But he comes to the pretty much the same conclusion that one of his heroes Elvis Costello did: “History repeats the same defeats, the glib replies, the same defeats.”
So the real question that remains is what Rob posits at the beginning of the film: “What came first, the music or the misery?” I would say the music because when the misery came later we had a soundtrack to it already picked out and waiting.
Such lively tracks such as "Championship Vinyl", "Laura' Song", and "Love Junkie" instantly prove that this universally relatable material could really be set anywhere.