Juliet, Naked (2018)
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A film about a faded rock star coming back out of the shadows is not a new theme, but here it feels so crisp. Hawke's performance is perfect, as are Byrne and O'Dowd, a seeming odd couple whose devotion is showing signs of strain. O'Dowd's character is quite funny when he keeps finding out new information about his idol.
Although there are romantic comedies on the subject of music and midlife perspective, this one proves extra eloquent and engaging. It's not just a film about finding love. It's also about discovering the difference between a fan's rose-colored glasses and reality; a dinner scene captures this theme brilliantly. Even if the rest of the film hadn't been any good (which is not the case), I still would have recommended this film on the strength of that scene alone.
This film has gotten only lukewarm reviews so far, which is odd. I am hopeful that audiences and other critics will give it the recognition it deserves. Gladly recommended.
Based on Nick Hornby's amusing book of the same name, the film is deliciously funny and full of clever twists. It pokes gentle fun at all the characters, who seem a little ridiculous but still ring true. The acting is superb, especially Rose Byrne, who plays Annie: middle-class, nearing middle-age, childless, attractive in a pinched, worried way, trying to do the right thing instead of letting herself go.
You'll be grinning all through this delight, as Crowe tries to live down his past while Annie tries to break away from hers.
Incidentally, Ethan Hawke, who plays Crowe, (yes, a Hawke pretending to be a Crowe: talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing!) also sings the vocals in what are supposed to be Crowe's songs, which play in the background.
"Juliet, Naked" is a film about a very unique love triangle. The three points of that triangle are: Duncan (Chris O'Dowd), an obsessive fan of an obscure and no longer active singer-songwriter named, Tucker Crowe; Annie (Rose Byrne), Duncan's long suffering girlfriend who feels like she's in competition with Crowe for her boyfriend's attention and is losing; and the object of obsession himself, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), an easygoing dude, who long ago tossed away his music career, and who now lives in his ex-wife's garage trying to resemble a reasonable facsimile of a father for their son, Jackson (Azhy Robertson).
Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, this, mostly, light and funny, pleasant breeze of a film is a delight from start to finish.
What's mostly on the mind of the writer is the way in which these characters have chosen to lead their lives. Rose has been, and continues to be, way too cautious and, as a result, is suffering from emotional and psychological paralysis. Tucker has been way too reckless and, as a result, is the eye of a rapidly revolving hurricane of relationships that will soon swirl and crash around him with hilarious results. And in the middle, is Duncan who spends way too much of his time focusing on the emotional content of Crowe's songs and very little time focusing on the emotional content contained in the heart of his neglected girlfriend, Annie.
Rose Byrne, as Annie, is plain stuck. She's in a relationship with two men - one who is physically present, but not emotionally, and another who is emotionally present but not physically. Though she is smart and charming and attractive, she is sort of like an airplane waiting at the edge of a runway for permission to take off. Permission that never seems to come and permission she probably doesn't need after all.
Convincing as a woman who fulfills all of the requirements that her outer life demands without actually fulfilling any of the requirements that her inner life does, Byrne is all apologies and accomodations. She is a Rube Goldberg contraption made flesh - balls rolling, dominoes falling, ramps see sawing one way, then another, but, without any greater purpose other than to keep itself going, one day after another, for enjoyment of others.
As the obsessive fan, who runs a comprehensive website about everything and anything Crowe, frequently chats with other Crowe obsessives on-line and has a well maintained and more than slightly creepy shrine to the man in the basement of his and Annie's home, O'Dowd is just goofy enough to trigger the necessary laughs without being so goofy that he becomes a one note joke.
The film pays real careful attention to Duncan's emotional connection to Crowe and his songs. Sure, the film, and I assume the book, plays his obsessing for laughs, but, it also respects it, too. That is no more clear then in a pivotal scene, somewhere in the middle moving towards the end of the film, where Duncan and Crowe come face to face, sharing a dinner table with neglected girlfriend and no longer neglected son. Obsessive fan collides with the object of his obsession and the results, though predictably awkward, cringe worthy and painfully funny, also reveal each character's sensitive sore spots. The scene sticks its' landing and then some. It's wonderfully played out.
Overall, O'Dowd manages to create a memorable human being in Duncan who is, ultimately, deeply flawed, but, nonetheless, understandable and sympathetic. He sees so much in others who are far away and so little in those who are close by. He is so intensely focused on his obsession for the words and music of Tucker Crowe that he has no more energy left for his afterthought of a girlfriend. If his life could be summed up in an album's worth of tracks, the first twelve songs would be about Crowe and a thirteenth, hidden track, would be about Annie.
And Hawke? He plays casual, broken and messed up with an ease that is always charming and affecting. He does a fine job of slipping into the skin of a man who has just recently caught up to his responsibilities and is making a genuine, though clumsy, attempt to unscrew up as much of his screwed up life as he can. He's like someone walking through the rubble of a neighbourhood recently devastated by an 9.0 earthquake with all the concern of a man browsing for swim trunks at a local department store.
The direction is unobtrusive and workmanlike. The pace is steady and never lags.
A real surprise. Catch it if you can.
Not only are those people not listed here, but Jimmy O. Yang is billed fourth ... and I have zero recollection of him being in the film, which I just saw it two hours ago! Seriously someone help; I feel like I'm losing my mind. ;)
Rose Byrne is very likeable as Annie, who has spent 15 years with her boyfriend, Duncan(Chris O'Dowd's character), and has been mostly unhappy that whole time. She can't seem to understand his obsession with faded and mysterious has-been rock star Tucker Crowe, played by Ethan Hawke, and she understands Duncan's love for Tucker as a musician defeats his love for her. Annie begins a pen pal relationship with Tucker, which eventually leads him to visit the U.K. and the plot goes deeper from there.
Ethan Hawke is a revelation as always, portraying a broken man who is hated by so many but knows he still has one last chance. He has squandered any sort of chance at having a relationship with his many children, but he knows he can still have one with his youngest child, and that he has an opportunity with Annie. Hawke understands his character so well and we are thus able to empathize with him. We as an audience laugh at the things he does/says, but we also empathize with him. Byrne does a great job as Annie, and the two characters are so believable because they can relate to each other and the difficulties that have come their way. I loved Byrne in this film.
This is a film with loveable characters, a witty script, and just pure comedy. They don't make romantic comedies this great very often.
Typically for a romantic comedy, Annie is bored with professor/lover Duncan and finds his scholarly preoccupation with Tucker to be tedious. Until she meets Tucker, and the real romance of this comedy begins.
Director Jesse Peretz and his writers skillfully adapted the Nick Hornby novel to keep the tone light despite a heart attack and multiple progeny by different women having Tucker scramble for sanity when they all meet in the hospital. That is one of the film's fine moments of a lunatic family reunion. Contrasting the de-riled family, Annie turns out to be an anchor for Tucker, with whom she had already formed an Internet connection.
The nice thing about this budding romance is it's slow, not sex filled, and rooted in a skepticism on both sides that rings true in the face of a rom-com formula frequently demanding instant passion and commitment. Even Duncan, his scholarly interest in Tucker bordering on obsessive, comes off as in love with Annie, but not silly, just self-absorbed and oblivious to her needs.
Juliet, Naked is a fresh take on the rom-com, easy going and poignant, but infused with enough love to make the romance authentic and the comedy light enough to allow for genuine affection in the face of daunting family and professional intrusions.
Chris O'Dowd plays Duncan Thomson, an English academic who is totally obsessed with an obscure U.S. rocker named Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). Crowe has gone to ground, and no one knows where he is. However, Duncan and his chat partners speculate endlessly.
Rose Byrne plays Annie Platt, Duncan's partner. They are in love--sort of--but Duncan can't understand why Annie doesn't share at least some of his enthusiasm about Tucker Crowe. How can she not be obsessed also?
Naturally, Tucker turns up in England, and that's when the plot really begins. It's not just boy meets girl--Tucker has had a very complicated life and it follows him to England.
This movie has a pretty good IMDb rating of 7.1. It's not a masterpiece, but it's still worth finding and seeing. We saw the film at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work well on the small screen. P.S. Don't miss Phil Davis' perfect portrayal of His Worship, Mayor Barton. He fits everyone's perception of a small city mayor.
P.S. Despite the title, the movie contains no sexual material. It has an R rating because of the liberal use of four-letter words.