- 15 Nov 18
Warm performances and subtly layered script elevate gentle rom-com about second chances.
Like many of Nick Hornby's stories, Juliet, Naked is filled with well-intentioned adults all realising that they have made quiet disasters of their lives. Duncan (Chris O'Dowd) is a professor whose obsession with early '90s cult rocker Tucker Crowe dominates his life. Ever-responsible, risk-averse Annie (Rose Byrne) has settled for Duncan and his ridiculousness, just as she has settled for an unfulfilling life in the sleepy British town of Sandcliff.
And when a meet cute leads Annie to enter into an email correspondence with Tucker Crowe himself (Ethan Hawke), Tucker confides in her that he has squandered two decades of his life, missing the opportunity to be an active father to the many children he has with several disgruntled exes. Annie and Tucker, both lonely and re-evaluating life, become close, and when Tucker visits from the States, his presence throws both Annie and Duncan for a loop.
Casting is everything in Jesse Peretz's gently paced rom-com, and he could not have chosen three more likeable actors. Hawke is superb as a man who, despite his unquestionable commitment to his youngest son Jackson (the adorable Azhy Robertson), has no idea how to reconnect with his other children - two of whom are now justifiably wary adult women with emotional boundaries that put our three leads to shame.
The performances are funny and smart, tapping into the complexity of each character. Of course, Hornby also uses the characters to tackle creativity and fandom. A scene that sees the often obnoxious Duncan earnestly tell Tucker what his music means to him, only to have Tucker angrily dismiss the praise due to deep-rooted shame, feels natural and underplayed, but layered.
Overall, Juliet, Naked is light, charming and filled with characters you want to spend more time with.