Friday, September 7, 2018

Juliet, Naked: Movie Review

Smart, mature and very funny comedy-drama.
There is a unique quality to Nick Hornby movie adaptations: most of them are just as good as, if not better than the source material. I’m a huge Nick Hornby fan, and I am constantly delighted by how good the adaptations turn out to be. Juliet, Naked is no different, with a really well written screenplay which taps into the comedic, musically-inclined pathos that Hornby is famous for.   2018

Directed by: Jesse Peretz

Screenplay by: Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor,
and Tamara Jenkins.
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby.

Starring: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke

Juliet, Naked shines because of how perfect the casting is. Ethan Hawke plays a washed-up alcoholic former rock star. He has a literal handful of kids with a confusing number of ex-girlfriends, most of whom hate him. Now he’s late-forties/fifty-ish and is realizing just how recklessly he lived the first half of his life. But we’re not introduced to Tucker Crowe right away, at first we only know him through his music and his fans.

Chris O’Dowd stars as the fan. “The fan” is appropriate, he has been obsessed with Tucker Crowe since he first became famous. Decades later, he is just as obsessed, but has become more of a lonely hobby since Crowe hasn’t made new music or public appearances in 25 years. But Duncan still runs a fan website forum and hosts a regular podcast where he dissects and re-dissects Tucker’s music. This is all while his girlfriend Annie just stands idly by.

Annie (Rose Byrne) is Duncan’s girlfriend. They live in small, sleepy seaside town with nothing new and nothing to do. Annie works for a struggling historical artifacts museum. Their partnership works on-screen because we get why they’re still together even though they obviously shouldn’t be. O’Dowd has an infectious energy as the insufferable dork. Annie is really just with him because it’s easier than not being with him. Until he sleeps with a fellow Tucker Crowe fan, and Annie finally kicks him out of the house. It really should have occurred years earlier but Byrne’s lack of energy is relatable. She’s tired of dreaming of the future when the future is unlikely to be any different than the past.

And then, and then, things change. Annie strikes up an email pen-pal relationship with the one man she probably shouldn’t, Tucker Crowe himself. Tucker loves talking himself down – he’s an alcoholic, has-been, uncreative, untalented, former womanizer. Annie just likes having someone to talk to who isn’t Duncan.

The beginning of the movie is hilarious. The rest of the movie slows down, but with Tucker arriving in London, we’re treated to an acting masterclass between the self-deprecating rock star Ethan Hawke, the insane but lovable Chris O’Dowd, and Rose Byrne as the woman caught between the two.

When life finds you in a rut, Juliet, Naked is the movie that says it isn’t over, inspiration could be just around the corner. It’s a smart, funny, mature comedy-drama that finds the right balance between life, love, music and comedy - exactly what Nick Hornby does so well.