Film Critic Matt Taylor falls in love with Barry Jenkins' newest film, If Beale Street Could Talk - a stunningly romantic filmWritten by Matt Taylor on 8th May 2019
Review: Juliet, Naked
Film Critic Kim Garande is charmed by Ethan Hawke's ageing rockstar in this Nick Hornby adaptation
Juliet, Naked actually refers to the title of an album in the movie by fictional 90s rockstar Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), which features ‘stripped back’ versions of songs that were in his bestselling album Juliet. This adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel, directed by Jesse Peretz, follows Annie (Rose Byrne) and her immense frustration at constantly being second best to the affections of her boyfriend, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd). Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a rock star who was especially popular in the 90s. His passion for Tucker extends to the fan website that he has set up for others around the world who share his love, a love that Annie neither understands nor shares. Fed up, Annie posts a negative review of Juliet, Naked on Duncan’s website, much to his dismay and she soon gets an email from someone who agrees very strongly with her – Tucker Crowe himself. The pair go on to exchange emails and, after Duncan’s mistake that compromises his relationship with Annie, it is clear to see the direction this story might take.
Juliet, Naked elicits a variety of relatable feelings such as those that surface when you try to introduce someone to your passion, and are unfortunately met with disinterest. This is perhaps why audiences cannot possibly hate Duncan, but rather draw parallels between him and themselves or other fangirls and boys that they know. What is interesting is how the movie takes something that we are so familiar with (‘fangirl’ culture) and makes us consider all aspects of it; particularly its impact on the fans, the family and the celebrities themselves. There is a scene in the movie where Annie, Duncan and his hero-slash- love-rival Tucker are all having dinner. This scene is reminiscent of the final verse in Eminem’s song ‘Stan’ which depicts the dangers of celebrity obsession that then turn to rage when that love goes unacknowledged by the object of desire. Duncan tells his idol, who is no longer a fan of his own music that, ‘Art isn’t for the artist just like water isn’t for the bloody plumber’, which is particularly memorable and thought-provoking. However, it feels as though the opportunity to further explore this idea was missed.
“Ethan Hawke is extremely well suited to his role
Ethan Hawke is extremely well suited to his role as the washed-up rock star. He is depicted as exceptionally likeable, which is brought about not only by his charismatic demeanour but also his relationship with his youngest son, Jackson (Azhy Robertson). His self-awareness and shame at being an absentee father to four out of five of his children paint him as a man who has clearly made many regrettable mistakes in his lifetime. Effortlessly suave, the tension between Hawke and Byrne was incredibly convincing despite the questionable age gap. A notable scene is Tucker and Annie’s awkward first encounter after having spent so much time emailing. It feels organic and authentic and both are extremely aware of it, a small yet poignant moment that many will relate to.
Rose Byrne is very likeable as Annie, her feelings of frustration and exclusion within her relationship with Duncan invite sympathy for her very early in the movie. At times, however, it seems slightly ridiculous that such a lovely, beautiful woman would have wasted fifteen years with someone like Duncan, who is clearly unappreciative of her. It would be nice to see their relationship in both a positive and negative light: to get a fully rounded picture in order to understand why they were together in the first place. However, it appears that we are introduced to their unsuitability from the get-go. This lack of depth in their relationship makes the stakes pretty low which means that it is not difficult to choose between Tucker and the pretentious, bumbling Duncan. Besides Chris O’Dowd’s Irish accent and sweet dopey face, there is not much to like about Duncan. However, whilst his love for Tucker is nonsensical at times, it works well for comedic purposes and O’Dowd’s performance is admirable.
“It is not difficult to choose between Tucker and the pretentious, bumbling Duncan
The ending of Juliet, Naked feels quite abrupt and, though this is frustrating, it seems like the safest bet. The film could easily explore more but clearly does not want to risk overstaying its welcome, which is probably the wisest decision. The ambiguity of the ending, followed by a funny credit scene allows the audience to determine their own conclusions.
VERDICT: Ultimately, Juliet, Naked is a good and enjoyable film, although a deeper dive into the character’s backgrounds, such as the reason for Tucker’s 25-year hiatus, would add more depth to the movie and the relationships between characters, and would enhance the plot. Overall, it is nothing short of a fun, sweet and wholesome.