By Steven Sheehan.
With the summer blockbusters safely out of the way, the big Christmas releases still to come and many of the Oscar films yet to be released, now is as good a time as any to slip in a delightful little rom-com.
Based on Nick Hornby’s book of the same name, Juliet, Naked doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before.
But then again, what film does? Nothing is new in cinema. It’s about doing something new with something old.
Rom coms rarely veer from their formula. But a cast including Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd promises much. And director Jesse Peretz delivers it with real charm.
Like a lot of Hornby’s writing, it’s set around his geeky fascination with music. Down in Sandcliff, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) is obsessed with everything to do with a 90s American cult rocker called Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).
Duncan is a teacher who runs a fan site for other Crowe-ites who gather on the net to fantasise and theorise about the musician’s life.
Annie (Rose Byrne) is Duncan’s long-suffering girlfriend. She longs for children but Duncan’s domineering passion for Crowe and high-level TV crowds out her own.
When Annie comes across a CD containing the demo version of Crowe’s only album she isn’t convinced. She posts a scathing review on Duncan’s site and soon after receives an unexpected email agreeing with her.
Except, it’s from Tucker himself. He’s far from the legend Duncan and co. make him out to be. Tucker has fathered multiple kids from different mothers and takes care of his 6-year-old Jackson (Azhy Robertson) in a large garage behind his ex-wife’s house.
But before you know it, Annie and Tucker are exchanging emails and striking up a long distance relationship.
Even though it’s not your typical rom-com set up, from there things develop as you’d expect. Yet what really elevates Juliet, Naked above so many other similar films is the casting.
Byrne is an absolute delight, putting on a flawless British accent that never once lets its mask slip. You have to wonder why she is stuck in comedy roles when she clearly has much more to offer.
She shows Annie has put her own hopes and ambitions to one side for too long and Tucker’s presence helps her get out of a rut.
But it’s not all down to Duncan and that’s another enjoyable thing about the film. All three of the main character’s lives are messy. No-one here is perfect and we aren’t asked to pick favourites.
O’Dowd is great as usual and even though Duncan is annoying and a little pretentious, he’s a bit of a loser you can’t help but feel a little sorry for.
Hawke is perfectly cast as the shabbily dressed ex-musician and is as laidback and charismatic as always.
Juliet, Naked has heart, but never gets too gooey, and raises plenty of laughs thanks to actors with a great sense of timing. There’s even some interesting questions about art (once completed, who is it for, the artists or the fans?), without becoming overly serious.
An enjoyable rom-com is a feel-good film that will make you fondly remember the characters in it and Juliet, Naked does just that.
Juliet, Naked opens in UK cinemas on Friday 2nd November.