Her Boyfriend’s Man Crush (Film Review: “Juliet, Naked”)

juliet,nakedPOSTER

A clever, warmhearted comedy about the dangers of settling for less, as well as meeting your idols in real life. Suddenly it’s a triangle.

SnapShot Plot

We all know them or know women who’ve dated or married them. Full grown men whose teenaged obsessions with the pop stars of their youths extend into adulthood, gaining momentum – aided and abetted by the instant communities afforded by social media – to the point of eclipsing all other relationships in real life. This is the fertile ground of the smart Rom-Com, Juliet, Nakedwith the perfectly cast trio of Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd.

O’Dowd does a lovely hat trick with the role of Duncan, by day a cinema professor in a sleepy British seaport but in every other breathing moment of his life, a sycophantic aficionado of a has-been singer/songwriter from 30 years ago named Tucker Crowe. But rather than oozing the ick factor, O’Dowd manages to convey the human element at the heart of any true fan’s devotion. Yet he’s so consumed by his archival forensics on the now Missing Legend of Tucker Crowe, that you can’t help but think that Fan derives from the word, FANATIC. Duncan’s long-suffering girlfriend, Annie (in another gentle yet wry performance by Rose Byrne) has spent the last 15 years of her life with Duncan, and only recently has begun to question how much of her personal dreams and ambitions have been subsumed by his overriding hobby and singular passion. When the Man himself suddenly becomes a living, breathing figure in her life, and she sees him for the imperfect human being he is with his own share of life’s regrets, Annie begins to imagine a future very different from the expected course. And for Tucker (in a bittersweet turn by Hawke), Annie’s utter lack of awestruck adoration is refreshing and intoxicating; she might just represent the fresh start and a cause for re-entry into a world he’s virtually abandoned for far too long.

 

 

Parting Shot

Based on the novel by Britain’s snarkiest author alive, Nick Hornby (About A Boy; High Fidelity), Juliet, Naked is a smart and surprisingly cohesive film, despite having a script co-written by four acclaimed writer/producer/directors in their own rights: Tamara Jenkins, Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor, and Phil Alden Robinson. It also seems fitting that the film was directed by Jesse Peretz, who before he embarked on a film career was famous as the bass guitarist and founding member of The Lemonheads, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based band from the late 80s and early 90s, who helped to propel punk music into the pop genre. No surprise that sprinkled throughout this movie is a scintillating soundtrack featuring the music of Squeeze, Robyn Hitchcock, Ryan Adams, The Pretenders and Wilco. Original music was composed by Nathan Larson for the film, performed mostly by Ethan Hawke himself.

For me, the central moment in Juliet, Naked is not a Romantic one, or even a will-they-or-won’t-they one. No, it’s the dinner table scene between Annie, Tucker and Duncan in which – in lesser hands than author Hornby and the writers of this script – the crowd would tsk tsk at Duncan’s oafish, blind adulation of Tucker, despite the bedraggled mess of a man sitting in front of him. We’d laugh at the fact that Duncan isn’t even properly jealous of Tucker and Annie’s growing relationship, indicative of how out of touch with reality his fan status has made him. As Tucker becomes increasingly incensed at the fawning, clearly objectifying intensity of Duncan’s passion, Duncan explodes and we finally understand what he’s struggling to convey. About the conflict between Art and the Artist, and for whom the work is meant. It’s not so much about the creator but rather what his/her creation has meant in the lives of those to whom it speaks. The rest is just the stuff of legend.

Juliet, Naked is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1nNWXhBWLw

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