Juliet, Naked (2018) - Review

by - January 04, 2019

Synopsis: Annie is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan – an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its discovery leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself.

Annie (Rose Byrne) is the unfulfilled and long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O'Dowd), a professor who spends most of his free time running a website and shrine to Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), an indie rock star who disappeared from the public eye in the 90's and has stoked years of fan theories and discussion over his fate. Duncan's Tucker Crowe fandom borders on obsessive, and when he receives an acoustic demo of Crowe's album, Juliet, Annie decides to write a scathing review of the stripped-down music on Duncan's fansite. Crowe, who has visited the fansite, sends Annie a message agreeing with her negative review, thus setting off a chain of 'pen pal-esque' emails where the two exchange personal, intimate details of their lives, and their acknowledgment that maybe they've let the best years slip through their hands.

Rose Bryne shines as Annie, a woman seemingly stuck in an unsatisfying relationship and eager for something more. She's sensible and kind with subtle humor and strength that had me thinking on more than one occasion that was too good for either leading man. Ethan Hawke could have easily come across as arrogant and unsympathetic, given his lack of paternal desire and instinct with his many, many children, but while he understands there's no way to hit the 'reset button' in life, he's making an effort to be better, even while he continues to misstep. He and Byrne’s interactions never felt forced or unnatural, nor was there any quirky meet cute (I suppose unless you count Tucker responding to her negative review of his music). In fact, their first face to face comes with a heart attack and a cringeworthy, uncomfortable array of Tucker’s children and exes that makes you question Annie’s decision to answer the phone the next time Tucker calls her (Which he questions as well).

As for Chris O'Dowd, he carries most of the comedic weight here, both obnoxious and yet uncomfortably relatable as a man who has let his love of an artist consume him to the point of pretentiousness. I facepalmed a few times during his conversations with Annie, especially after an indiscretion that leads to the end of their relationship, and yet O’Dowd still has enough charisma and charm that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to his character just yet. The movie deals painfully with the concept that you should never meet your heroes because they are always bound to disappoint, and while Duncan is a bit of a knob, you can't help but sympathize and agree when he tells Tucker that "art isn't the for the artist any more than water is for the plumber".

Avoiding the typical tropes and (most) contrivances, Juliet, Naked is a warm, but subtle romantic comedy with an ambiguous, yet satisfying ending. The cast is fabulous, especially the supporting roles, most notably Ayoola Smart (wonderful as Tucker’s daughter, Lizzy) and Lily Brazier (Annie’s lesbian sister who actually gave me a Honey Thacker vibe from Notting Hill). Definitely one of my favorite films of 2018 and gave me a hankering to relive High Fidelity soon.

Starring: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd, Azhy Robertson
Directed by: Jesse Peretz
Rated: R
Watched: 12.02.2018
Fun Facts:
- Rose Byrne was six months pregnant during the shoot, so they had to use various props to cover her stomach.
- Kate Winslet was originally cast as Annie in 2014.
- Nick Hornby has a cameo in the museum scene.
Notable Song: Juliet by Ethan Hawke

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