This movie is an old favorite, because the November paper has been submitted, the poster is done (I pick it up in an hour), and all but the one last student has their grades. It's snowing outside, again, adding another layer to this coldest December on record, and I am sleeping for record periods of time, myself, as appropriate to the weather.
Was it the tail end of the John Cusak era or the start of the Jack Black era, or both? Nick Hornby's novels are great, and this movie adaptation is sweet and funny and set in a grungy part of Chicago. John Cusak plays the screwup boyfriend Rob who has just been dumped. He wallows in pity arranged as Top Five lists, mirroring his obsession with music. He owns a little record store, where he has two employees who he hired part-time years ago, but they show up every day. There's the timid guy Dick and the nonstop clown Barry (Jack Black, who is obviously improvising some of his own material into the script.) I don't really like those movies where Black plays the main character, but here he is brilliant, adding spice to Cusak's stew of self-pity. Rob has just been dumped by Laura, but over a course of several sets of Top Five lists, including Top Five Breakups, we learn that he, well, kind of completely deserved it for being a total asshole. Even Rob comes to understand this, amazingly enough, after he revisits the other women on his Top Five Breakups list. It does seem to help that he and Laura's friend Liz (played as only a sister could by Joan Cusak) comes by to scream at Rob ("you fucking asshole") very briefly, pointedly, and effectively. It's a story of immature self-absorption overcome, narcissism faced and wrestled to the ground, the search for the new and improved girlfriend put to rest for good when Rob nixes the mixed tape he was making for the petite redhead music critic. When Laura's father dies, Rob goes to the funeral, and begins with an apology. That's basically what Laura needed to hear. This is not typically romantic, not in any inspirational way, but oddly enough it is loving in a meaningful way, because it's a story of two people who decide to grow together when they could have grown apart.
Hornby's novels-made-movies have been parodied by British comedians Mitchell and Webb with the track "Nick Hornby Epiphany" from That Mitchell & Webb Sound (disc 2). And here's a list of great quotes from the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0146882/quotes. And don't miss The Beta Band... the song Dry the Rain from the soundtrack is great.