Zoe Kravitz stars in Hulu's version of "High Fidelity."

Zoe Kravitz stars in Hulu's version of "High Fidelity." Credit: Hulu / Phillip Caruso

SERIES "High Fidelity"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Hulu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Nick Hornby's beloved novel gets a gender-swapped small-screen adaptation for Hulu, with Zoë Kravitz taking on the role of the anguished record store owner Rob and a present-day vision of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, replacing the 1995 novel's London and the acclaimed 2000 film's Chicago.

Spanning 10 episodes, the series chronicles Rob's journey into her top 5 past heartbreaks in an effort to understand why her relationships never seem to work out. Supporting her in this quest are her best friends and employees Cherise (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) and Simon (David H. Holmes). When Rob isn't directly addressing the camera or reconnecting with past flames, she's probably making top 5 lists of the best songs for a particular moment or mood.

MY SAY There's nothing inherently wrong with the notion of a "High Fidelity" TV series, even though the Stephen Frears movie starring John Cusack stands as a perfect adaptation of Hornby's work.

It would be unfair to expect the show's creators Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka to top that earlier effort. They're doing something fundamentally different here: Changing the protagonist's gender offers a rich opportunity to expand out from the terrain of the novel and the movie. The story of how pop culture obsession can serve as a crutch that distracts us from confronting our own inadequacies transcends white, straight men.

But this "High Fidelity" runs approximately five hours and rarely finds its own voice. It's mostly entangled in the glum fog that envelops the character and is so central to the material.

This is the story of a person who is sad pretty much consistently, driven to that state by the knowledge that her inability to commit to anything in life has doomed her to perpetual loneliness, and by her helplessness in changing that paradigm.

It is a heavy lift to sustain the interest of an audience for such a prolonged running time when the mood remains so one-note, so perpetually downcast, without much in the way of compelling drama to shake things up. There is simply not enough to this material to sustain the entire run of a TV season, and the writing seriously flails when it strives to beef things up by deviating into subplots involving characters that barely register.

Kravitz is a first-rate actor who mopes convincingly and handles the fourth wall breaking seamlessly. She is especially adept at evoking a genuine sense of the character's disbelief at her own self-destructiveness. When she's not on-screen, things drag even more severely.

Questlove produces the music and the series could genuinely serve as a tool for discovery in that area — there's everything from Nina Simone to Funkadelic, Bad Brains and Blondie.

But there's something disappointingly inauthentic about the way the movie presents the gentrified New York music scene — the characters seem to occupy a stylish sitcom vision of this world when some more grit is desperately needed.

BOTTOM LINE The creators of this "High Fidelity" TV series fail to expand on the material to the point where 10 episodes can be sustained.

Top Stories