The Movie Waffler New Release Review - JULIET, NAKED | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - JULIET, NAKED

juliet naked review
A woman secretly corresponds with the reclusive rock star her boyfriend idolises.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jesse Peretz

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd, Rose Byrne, Kitty O'Beirne

juliet naked poster


Juliet, Naked is an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel, so you pretty much know what to expect from it. Like much of Hornby's work, Juliet, Naked features a male character with an unhealthy obsession with some aspect of pop culture. This time it's Duncan (Chris O'Dowd), a community college lecturer who spends his spare time running the fan club for Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), an American singer-songwriter who disappeared after a brief spell of fame in the '90s. Yet unlike the fanboy protagonists of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, Duncan is the closest thing Juliet, Naked has to an antagonist, and he's portrayed largely as a pretty reprehensible bloke.

Sharing Duncan's life in the small English seaside town of Sandcliff is Annie (Rose Byrne), who after 15 years of cohabiting, is beginning to realise her role in Duncan's life takes a backseat to that of Tucker.

juliet naked review

One day a package arrives for Duncan, which Annie opens to find a CD labelled "Juliet, Naked." The CD turns out to be a previously unearthed demo version of Tucker Crowe's most famous album, 'Juliet', said to be inspired by an eponymous lover who broke his heart. Annie is unimpressed with the music, but for Duncan it's the find of a lifetime. After an argument with Duncan, Annie leaves a snotty review of the demo on the fan site her boyfriend maintains. To her surprise, she receives an email from none other than Tucker himself, who finds her critique refreshing. Thus begins a transatlantic, epistolary romance between the under-appreciated British woman and the burnt out American rockstar.

Director Jesse Peretz was once a member of the indie rock group The Lemonheads, who much like Tucker Crowe, shined for a brief moment in the '90s, so I guess he's a perfect choice to helm this tale. Few actors are associated with the independent spirit of '90s American indie cinema quite like Hawke, who has maintained his very '90s facial hair in the decades since, so I can't think of a better choice to embody the character he's playing here.

juliet naked review

Hawke possesses a natural affability that goes a long way to helping us warm to the character of Tucker Crowe, who we learn has been a bit of a git for much of his life, leaving a series of unclaimed children on both sides of the Atlantic. When we hear the truth behind his sudden disappearance, it's pretty awful, but it's hard to get mad with Hawke, whose puppy dog eyes suggest a genuine regret about the actions of his past.

Commendably, the film doesn't let Tucker entirely off the hook, and a subplot concerning an estranged daughter surprisingly doesn't end how you might expect. That said, there are few surprises in Juliet, Naked, which is otherwise a formulaic rom-com. There's a lot to be said for a formulaic rom-com if it can use that formula successfully, and for the most part, Juliet, Naked does. Byrne holds it all together with a sympathetic lead performance, while some of the funniest moments come courtesy of Lily Brazier as Annie's predatory lesbian sister.

juliet naked review

The movie's best moment comes when the three leads find themselves gathered around a dinner table, with Tucker and Duncan arguing over the value of the former's work. Tucker claims his music is nowhere near as great as Duncan believes it to be, which riles up his uberfan, and there's an interesting mini-debate about whether art belongs to its creator or its fans.

Juliet, Naked could be remade as a more profound, but probably more depressing examination of how misguided and undeserved our love of artists can be, but as it is, it's a light piece of entertainment that won't make you think too much but should keep a smile on your face for 105 minutes.

Juliet, Naked is in UK/ROI cinemas November 2nd.


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