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Juliet, Naked (2018)

Adam Lenhardt

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Title: Juliet, Naked

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Music

Director: Jesse Peretz

Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Dodds, Jimmy O. Yang, Lily Newmark, Azhy Robertson, Ayoola Smart, Lily Brazier, Johanna Thea, Florence Keith-Roach, Georgina Bevan, Karol Steele, Michael Chapman, Ko Iwagami, Lee Byford, Andrew Dunkelberger, Begona F. Martin, Laura Camberley, Janine Catterall, Mike Pinfield, Thomas Gray, Sascha Panknin

Release: 2018-08-16

Runtime: 97

Plot: Annie is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan – an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself.

 

Adam Lenhardt

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Saw this over the weekend because the start time was convenient. I'd read and liked (but not loved) the Nick Hornby novel it was adapted from.

This ended up being one of the adaptations where I thought the movie was better than the book.

Both center around the same premise: A woman named Annie is stuck in a dead end relationship in a dead end seaside town. Her longtime boyfriend, Duncan, is a local academic and an obsessive fan of Tucker Crowe -- a singer-songwriter who is sort of like Kurt Cobain would have been if he'd had the niche following of Nick Drake, and if he'd simply vanished rather than committed suicide. Nobody has seen any sign of him for the better part of a quarter-century, which provides a fertile ground for speculation among his small but passionate following.

One day, a package arrives in the post from Crowe's record label. Inside is a CD called Juliet, Naked, the first new music from Crowe in decades -- a compilation of the "raw" demo recordings of the song from Juliet, his most famous album. Annie listens to it before Duncan comes home, and is rather unimpressed. Duncan, once he gets over his sense of "betrayal" at her having opened his mail and listened to it before him -- declares it a work of genius. When Annie posts her contrary opinion on the message board of his fan site, it causes a rift that finally combusts their long stagnant relationship.

Shortly thereafter, she gets an email from Tucker Crowe, who shares her opinion of his record label's cash grab. They enter into a long distance correspondence with each other at a moment in which both are shaken out of their dormancy.

Rose Byrne is terrific as Annie; while the character is substantially the same as the book character, Byrne gives her a caustic edge that counterbalances the inherent passivity. This is a woman fast running out of fucks to give.

Duncan was the target of the sharpest satire in the book, but Chris O'Dowd brings a pretentiously oblivious self-absorption to the role that takes the cutting humor to a whole other level. You utterly buy into the reality of the character, even as he's mostly appalling.

As Tucker Crowe, Ethan Hawke is playing a variation on the persona he's been developing in indie pictures for the last couple decades. He has a certain laid back charisma that makes you buy him as this cult musician, with a long string of lovers, but you also believe the guilt and regret that is the source of his inertness and lack of forward momentum.

The main reason I preferred the film to the book is that it doesn't wallow in the bleakness quite so much. Cinematic Annie and Tucker start in the same place as their literary counterparts, but the movie is much more confident than the book that they'll be able to start really living again, if they want to.

In both the book and the movie, Tucker has five children -- only one of which he's been involved in raising -- by four different women. In both, his relationship with his two oldest sons is basically a non-factor. But in the movie, his relationship with one daughter is even worse than in the book while his relationship with the other daughter is less irreparably damaged. Both played better than in the book. The book seems to take the tack that what's done is done; and there's no point in dwelling on it. The movie, by contrast, seems to feel that life keeps giving you new chances to change your patterns of behavior. I find that a lot more satisfying as an audience member.

It's not a movie that's going to change any lives, but it is the kind of movie that the studios just don't make any more: a warm character drama centered around things real people actually deal with, and lightened by effective comedic beats. If you miss those kind of movies, Juliet, Naked will probably be for you.
 

Jake Lipson

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I have no idea why I didn't post in this thread last year -- Juliet, Naked was one of my very favorite movies of last year, and was unfortunately not widely seen.

But I wanted to bump this thread because I just recently discovered that it is now included for streaming with Amazon Prime membership.

So for those of you who haven't seen it -- and there are probably a lot of you around here who haven't -- you now have an easy way to check it out without paying extra, if you are a Prime member.

I agree with @Adam Lenhardt's thoughts on the movie. It's really good. If you missed it in theaters, don't miss it again now that it's on Prime.
 
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