Juliet, Naked | Jesse Peretz | August 17, 2018
Duncan Thomson (Chris O’Dowd) is the biggest fan of Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a cult-like musician who released Juliet, his only album, 25 years ago and walked off a stage mid-performance, never to be heard from again. Thomson is a film professor at a local university in the English town of Sandcliff, but he spends all his time on the obsessive Tucker Crowe fan site and forum he runs with other devotees nearly 24/7.
This frustrates his long-time girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne) beyond belief, who is tired of all things Crowe and just wants her boyfriend to step up to plate and possibly take their relationship to the next level. She realizes that she wants a kid, but it’s tough when all Duncan wants to do is obsess over Crowe.
One day, an envelope arrives at their home addressed to Duncan. In it is Juliet, Naked, a new album featuring a collection of demos from the Juliet recording sessions. Annie accidentally opens it first; curiosity gets the best of her and she can’t help but listen without Duncan. They butt heads when she totally disagrees with his high praise of the album and goes so far as to leave a critical comment ripping it to shreds on his very own fan forum.
While working her day job as a museum curator along with her sister Rose (Lily Brazier), she receives a strange e-mail complimenting her harsh critique of the demos album from someone claiming to be the man himself, Tucker Crowe. Naturally, she is skeptical at first, but they continue to email each other developing a bit of an online relationship that seems harmless until Crowe reveals that he’ll be visiting his very pregnant daughter Lizzie (Ayoola Smart) in London for the birth of his first grandchild.
If you’ve ever seen a rom-com before, you can see where things are headed, and it creates an awkward situation for all parties involved.
Sure, it’s familiar territory for the genre, but it’s warmly translated to the screen by Jim Taylor, Tamara Jenkins, and Evgenia Peretz, based on novelist and Brooklyn screenwriter Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name. This talented cast certainly elevates the material with endearing performances from Byrne and Hawke, who actually do share some real chemistry, which is felt even when they’re just engaging with one another via email. O’Dowd is perfect for the role of the somewhat immature yet loveable Duncan and provides plenty of earned chuckles.
Juliet, Naked is sweetly sincere and while it doesn’t do enough new to truly stand out amongst the crowded field of rom-com players, there’s enough charm in the performances and tons of great music – with performances by Hawke – that make this a film that is bound to find a devoted audience over time.