Pop Culturing: Zoë Kravitz Shines in Hulu's Delightful 'High Fidelity' Series

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday February 19, 2020

Zoë Kravitz, left, and Thomas Doherty, right, in a scene from Hulu's "High Fidelity."
Zoë Kravitz, left, and Thomas Doherty, right, in a scene from Hulu's "High Fidelity."  (Source:Phillip Caruso/Hulu)

There is no shortage of remakes, reboots and "remixes" made for the small screen. Producers and content creators are mining whatever intellectual property they can in order to churn out new programs for an extremely competitive TV industry. Even director Bong Joon-ho is reworking his Oscar-winning film "Parasite" into a series for HBO! "High Fidelity," a 25-year-old novel by Nick Hornby, was itself made into a feature film in 2000 (also a Broadway musical in 2006) and is now getting the 2020 TV treatment.

Developed for Hulu by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka, "High Fidelity," which hits the streaming service on Valentine's Day, turns out to be one of the reasons why remaking something isn't always a cash grab. In this version, the story gets a gender flip. And a race flip. And a sexuality flip. Zoë Kravitz plays protagonist Rob — as in Robin — (played by John Cusack in the film, which he also cowrote), the owner of a scrappy Brooklyn record store, who just suffered a devastating breakup. Like the film, this Rob is a music know-it-all who is obsessive and loves to make Top (Fill in the Blank) Lists. What West and Kucserka do so well here is respect the source material while making something new, winking at the novel/film while presenting the show for a modern audience. It's kind of like a cover song that becomes better than the original.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph, left, and David Holmes, right, in a scene from Hulu's "High Fidelity." Photo credit: Phillip Caruso/Hulu

The new season, consisting of 10 breezy 30-minute episodes, begins with heartache: Rob and fiancé Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir) are ending things, sparking Rob to spiral and reflect on her Top Five Ex-Lovers while jumping back into dating. Throughout the season, we get flashbacks and emotional confession from Rob about her past lovers as she gets to know Clyde (Jake Clancy, who is becoming one of the best "That Guy!" going), a recent New York City transplant who seems like a total square. But after a first date, Rob can't seem to shake him. We also see Rob dealing with the fallout of her relationship while running her store, where her friends Simon (David Holmes) and Cherise (a breakout performance from rising star Da'Vine Joy Randolph). Simon also happens to be on Rob's ex list, having to break up when he came out as gay.

Above all else, "High Fidelity" is a platform for Kravitz, whose mother Lisa Bonet starred in the 2000 film. Kravitz's biggest role to date is probably her stint on "Big Little Lies." She's wonderful on that show, albeit boxed in to a specific wavelength and tone, preventing her to show us what she can really do. On "High Fidelity," Kravitz gets to run the gambit of emotion and does so with natural flair and charm. If you came to the show because of a preexisting relationship with the novel or the film, you'll stay for Kravitzs' performance.

What makes "High Fidelity" great and not just good is that it takes the time to explore modern New York City and pepper in some of today's biggest pop culture conversations. In one throw away scene, Simon and Cherise have an intense back-and-forth in front of a customer trying to purchase a vinyl copy of a Michael Jackson record. The two debate whether or not it is appropriate to listen to his music in the wake of child abuse allegations made against the late pop icon. Rob eventually comes in to suggest that if his music, along with Kanye West's tunes, is banned, it would hurt those involved in making the music, like Quincy Jones, who appeared on Jackson's "Off the Wall." It's a surprisingly cool scene that, like other similar scenes, gives the show its backbone.

Zoë Kravitz, left, and Jake Lacy, right, in a scene from Hulu's "High Fidelity." Photo credit: Phillip Caruso/Hulu

Hornby's "High Fidelity" examined a kind of specific type of dudes, who use rock music knowledge and list-making as a debilitating crutch. And like that Rob, Kravtiz's Rob has a Wikipedia-esque memory for music facts and uses that to her advantage. In one episode, she finds herself getting drinks with a rich dude who has a mind-blowing vinyl collecting. He tries to talk with Cylde, who couldn't name the members of the Beatles, and completely ignores Rob, who he writes off as she attempts to interject herself into the conversation. Cusack's Rob was seen in arrested development, but here, Kravitz's Rob uses her knowledge to dismantle this anonymous white man, spewing out facts about the band Wings and proving him wrong in the process.

"High Fidelity" won't change the way we talk about TV or even reboot culture. But it is about the best outcome one can hope for when reworking older material for a modern audience. Best of all, the comedy is highly entertaining and easily bingeable this Valentine's Day weekend.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

Comments on Facebook