Juliet, Naked


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd in Juliet, Naked
"The title might sound risque but the end product is as safe, cosy and unoriginal as a Now That's What I Call Music Christmas gift." | Photo: Alex Bailey

The title might sound risque but the end product is as safe, cosy and unoriginal as a Now That's What I Call Music Christmas gift. Jesse Peretz's romcom, based on the book by Nick Hornby and adapted by what amounts to far too many writers to result in a strong single voice - Tamara Jenkins, Evgenia Peretz, Phil Alden Robinson and Jim Taylor - is the sort of film that's likely to waft in and out of your life leaving only the faintest trace.

What might linger are the performances by Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke, who just about salvage the material. Byrne is Annie, the long-term girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O'Dowd, playing a sort of cut-price version of his character in Love After Love). Their relationship is in the doldrums, not least because Duncan is obsessed with the work of, and enduring mystery of what happened to, musician Tucker Crowe, turning part of their home into a shrine and pouring most of his energies into a fan website.

Given how dreadfully dull the film makes out Duncan to be, it's amazing that the story contrives for him to be the one to have an affair - but, then, this is also a tale that still thinks a woman's 'need to have a baby' is a great idea for a plot driver. Before you can say contrivance, Annie has become pen-pals with Tucker - briefly established here as a man whose rock n roll lifestyle has led to a string of kids from various mothers, which in turn has left his parent/child relationships in various states of disarray.

This early email back and forth threatens to scupper the film altogether as it drifts into voice-over overload, unable to free the scenes adequately from the printed page. Once Annie and Tucker meet, things kick up a notch, mainly because the two best things in the movie are on screen simultaneously. But despite the actors' best efforts, the emotional element of the film never catches fire. Neither Duncan nor Tucker really have enough about them to make this feel like a real tussle for Annie's heart and the subsidiary plotting about the importance of parenthood feels more preachy than pertinent. Annie, too, is flat as a character, despite Byrne's best efforts. The film has some amiable moments but lacks any real emotional hook.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2018
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Annie is the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan, an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. When the acoustic demo of a record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to an encounter with the elusive rocker himself.
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Director: Jesse Peretz

Writer: Tamara Jenkins, Evgenia Peretz, Phil Alden Robinson, Jim Taylor, based on the novel by Nick Hornby

Starring: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd, Denise Gough, Megan Dodds

Year: 2018

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2018

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