Juliet, Naked (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Rose Byrne just does not get enough credit for how talented an actress she happens to be. Though Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd are great here, Byrne is best in show.
A clever premise, and some very funny moments and melodramatic romantic comedy scenes, will likely make this a crowd pleaser.
An easy film to watch, one that likely will withstand numerous cable TV or streaming replays.
The clever charms of its opening half seem to disappear and the movie may become just another forgettable exercise in melodramatic nothingness.
These are not always the easiest people to like and root for.
This is not a bad movie, but there is no rush to see this in theaters.
A narcissist, obsessed with a rock star who released one album, that same reclusive rock star, and a woman caught in the middle of it all offers us the framework Jesse Peretz’s new rom-com Juliet, Naked needs to tell its story.
The proverbial “naked”-ness has nothing to do with physical nudity, but rather the vulnerability revealed by singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), whose debut album “Juliet”, has become the life’s passion of Crowe’s biggest fan, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd). Released in the early 1990s, Crowe’s album may have showed up on one year-end list in Rolling Stone magazine, but Duncan feels this is one of the greatest albums of all time.
Duncan runs a blog and livestreaming video channel, whose sole purpose is to connect Crowe fans who like to discuss and theorize what led to the singer’s mysterious disappearance from the music scene, after he walked off stage mid-show, never to be heard from publicly again.
After dating Duncan for 15 years, Annie (Rose Byrne) is running out of steam. She avoids the downstairs of their shared flat, as Duncan has created a shrine to Crowe, coating the walls with posters, concert announcements, framed pictures, and every ounce of imagery he can find. He increasingly isolates himself, listening to Crowe’s music, and talks about him incessantly. When a random CD arrives for Duncan in the mail, Annie opens it and finds a disc with a handwritten title – “Juliet, Naked.” When Annie listens to it before him, Duncan feels betrayed.
When Annie’s negative review on Duncan’s website is answered by Crowe himself, Juliet, Naked becomes something of a rom-com where Annie inexplicably finds herself texting and getting to know Crowe, as she and Duncan separate and begin new lives.
Adapted from a Nick Hornby novel of the same name, Peretz leans heavy on his three main characters, with Byrne best among them. Annie is starting to realize she is closing in on her 40s, and is lost in the disappointment of Duncan and curious about Crowe.
A visit to London perhaps offers the film’s best sequence, which involves an unexpected hospital trip, Tucker’s estranged children and their mothers surprising him, and his young son, Jackson (Azhy Robertson), trying to take care of his father because no one else is seemingly able to lend that kind of moral support.
Peretz delivers a sweet-and-sour film, which may be a breeze to watch, but lacks anything all that memorable. Hawke sings numerous songs on the film’s soundtrack, but though Tucker Crowe is supposed to have created one of the most underrated albums of the 1990s, the songs we are privy to, fail to connect.
And after awhile, Juliet, Naked runs out of places to go. As Annie and Tucker struggle to figure out what is developing between them, Duncan is on the rebound and every bit the tool he was before. With Byrne, Hawke, and O’Dowd such talented actors, they keep the film afloat, even if it lessens in effectiveness the longer it goes.
Even if it devolves into mediocrity, I cannot discard Juliet, Naked completely because I recognize that, if the film finds an audience, a lot of people are going to enjoy this. Even in pointing out some of the film’s flaws, I couldn’t help but smile a great deal of the time and found much of the film amusing.
Byrne’s performance is the real story behind Juliet, Naked, a film featuring a woman, at the crossroads, attempting to find her voice, one man struggling to reclaim his, and another trying turn down the noise and static he creates for all the people he meets.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd, Azhy Robertson, Lila Brazier, Ayoola Smart, Megan Dodds, Jimmy O. Yang.
Director: Jesse Peretz
Written by: Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor, Tamara Jenkins
Based on the novel “Juliet, Naked” by Nick Hornby
Release Date: August 17, 2018