Movie Review: Juliet, Naked
click the play button below to listen to the review:
Director: Jesse Peretz
by Jason Koenigsberg
Nick Hornby is one of the best comedic authors about romance from the male point of view. Film adaptations of his work have been top notch with High Fidelity (2000) and About a Boy (2002), however, somewhere Juliet, Naked took a wrong turn and ended up a fairly below average romantic comedy where the characters make contrived decisions to force a story that is pretty thin from the beginning.
The opening shot is of Chris O’Dowd on a computer screen introducing and proclaiming his love for Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) a former American rock star during the 90’s grunge era. His hero has since fallen off the map for the past 25 years and nobody knows what happened to him or where he is since he stopped making music while performing in the middle of a concert. We then see Chris O’Dowd with his girlfriend (Rose Byrne) and learn that they have been in a relationship for the past 15 years that has not really gone anywhere and that his obsession with his musical idol has driven a wedge between them. Everything about their decaying relationship is typical and predictable. We learn the background of our three main characters very quickly then the story unfolds. The plot is simple and contains a conundrum that Juliet, Naked needs to have for it to work and be of the slightest interest. O’Dowd’s character writes a blog about Tucker Crowe. He gets a CD sent to him of long-lost songs, his girlfriend listens to the disc and posts a negative review on his website to get her boyfriends attention. Instead, it gets the attention of the real Tucker Crowe and they are both lonely people and begin a transatlantic dialogue that blossoms into a romance once he comes to England. Her boyfriend finds out and of course, trouble ensues.
Unfortunately, hilarity does not follow, the most Juliet, Naked has to offer are a few light chuckles. The performances are just fine, the three main actors are all consummate professionals and do their best, but the script is glaring with flaws. The two men both act like overgrown children, and that was certainly the point, but their redeeming qualities are too few and far between, we wonder how women stayed with them in the first place. This felt like it was written by a female right after she went through a divorce or a bad breakup. These characters also make some illogical decisions. What woman in their right mind would allow a stranger (basically) from America to invite himself to stay at her place after only knowing him for a few minutes? Sure they talked online a lot, but their initial meeting does not exactly go as smoothly as they probably expected it to. Also, in 2018 it is highly unlikely that all the mystery and myths surrounding Ethan Hawke’s character would exist. He is not living in witness protection, he has a passport, he does not look like a member of ZZ Top but just an older version of Ethan Hawke. If Chris O’Dowd and his comrades who obsess over Tucker Crowe put a little more effort into their search they could have probably tracked him down easier than it was to find Rodriguez in Searching for Sugarman (2012).
Juliet, Naked tries to be a love story about how aging catches up with us while at the same time life passes us by. Both Hawke and Byrne’s characters reminisce about how the past two decades seemed to fly by and that they feel they wasted so much time. That reflects the way many adults feel about their lives. But they might also feel that they wasted two hours of their life sitting in the theater in watching this movie.
Skip Juliet, Naked and watch any of the Nick Hornby movie adaptations mentioned above or Searching for Sugarman which is one of the best documentaries from this decade and the plot resembles the true events from this Academy Award-winning doc.