Juliet, Naked is is thoroughly enjoyable escapist fare with some laughs and the odd bon mot thrown in. It is elevated by a good script and the three perfectly cast lead actors, Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd.
Nick Hornby’s novels have provided the material for some winning rom-coms, including one of my favourite films, High Fidelity, and Juliet, Naked continues in this tradition.
As with the John Cusack character, Rob, in High Fidelity, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) is a rocknroll nerd. His obsession with obscure indie rock star Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) has come between him and his long-term (and long-suffering) partner Annie (Rose Bryne), who works at a museum in the small English seaside town in which they live. He has a room plastered with pics of Tucker, and runs a fan website in honour of his hero, who has disappeared without trace after his debut 1993 release, Juliet. When Duncan comes by an acoustic demo bootleg recording of Juliet, he publishes a rave review to his website, and is appalled when an increasingly fed-up Annie posts a negative response.
She is gobsmacked to receive a private email from Tucker himself, who agrees with her that the bootleg is a sell-out grab for fanboy bucks. Unknown to Duncan, Annie and Tucker commence an email correspondence. Unknown to Annie, Duncan commences an affair with a work colleague.
So when Tucker advises that he’s coming to England for the birth of his grandchild (he has many children to different mothers from his evidently very active rock star days) and suggests that he and Annie meet up, the stage is set for a love triangle of sorts.
It’s a good set-up with ample opportunities for comedy that are well exploited. It’s a hoot when Duncan comes face to face with his hero, initially refusing to believe that Tucker is really Tucker, then being thoroughly pissed off when he realises there’s something going on twixt he and Annie. Meantime, Tucker has to confront the consequences of neglecting his offspring when some of whom roll up for the birth.
Juliet, Naked is lightweight fare, but it’s strong in all the fundamentals. It’s a great script, the three main characters are perfectly cast and they deliver in spades. How could you not like a movie starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd all clearly delighting in their roles?
Unlike Rob in High Fidelity, Duncan is not given sympathetic treatment here. His nerd-dom is not a badge of honour; it’s a type of arrested development that strands him in isolation, unable to accommodate change, huffing and puffing in outrage when Tucker releases another album incorporating concerns of middle-age, rather than the doomy indie outpourings of his younger self.
For Annie and Tucker, who are open to change and prepared to move on with their lives, the future looks a whole lot brighter, although commendably the ending of the film is left wide open, rather than neatly and predictably resolved.
There’s some serious musical cred in the mix, too, with director and co-writer Jesse Peretz being the founding member of The Lemonheads. He’s drawn on some notable indie musos, including Robyn Hitchcock, to provide Tucker’s music. Ethan Hawke does a good job of the vocals, with his rendition of the Kinks’ magnificent Waterloo Sunset an emotion-charged highlight.
Juliet, Naked is thoroughly enjoyable escapist fare with some good laughs and the odd bon mot thrown in. It’s a mighty refreshing change from all the dark stuff that proliferates today. I had to talk sternly to myself in reducing my assessment to a star rating. In terms of sheer enjoyment, this was close to a 5 star movie for me, but bear in mind I’m a sucker for Hornby’s rock nerd fare.
Movie Website: https://www.julietnakedfilm.com/
Juliet, Naked features: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd, Azhy Robertson
Director: Jesse Peretz
Writers: Screenplay by Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor & Tamara Jenkins (adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby)
Runtime: 97 min
Australian release date: Julia, Naked at Luna Cinema, Leederville from September 20, 2018
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