Juliet, Naked (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

At this point, Ethan Hawke has become an actor who draws me into a theater if his name is attached to a project. Had I known that his newest role in Juliet, Naked (2018) was adapted from a Nick Hornby book, I would have likely run to the theater. While I’ve yet to read any of Hornby’s books, I’m a big fan of High Fidelity (2000) – partially because of the love of music built into the story. Juliet, Naked also showcases the appreciation of music and was a fun experience.

Juliet, Naked is another enjoyable movie adapted from a Nick Hornby novel

Annie (Rose Byrne) often finds herself coming second in her boyfriend Duncan’s (Chris O’Dowd) life. However, it’s not another woman who holds his attention – but rather a forgotten musician. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), who he feels is under-appreciated and has essentially vanished since the early ‘90s. After posting conflicting reviews about one of Tucker’s rare, previously unreleased albums, Tucker reaches out to Annie via email, and the two begin to bond.

There are a number of joyous moments in this film. Byrne, Hawke, and O’Dowd all have tremendous chemistry together. The drama gets intense at times – but never melodramatic, or played for bigger than it is. Then there are the moments of sheer laughter, often delivered by O’Dowd, that make the film all the more enjoyable. Annie’s desire to break out of her self-made rut and live is something most can connect with.

Tucker’s story, (which takes a bit a bit of time to unfold before he finally arrives), is also a compelling one. He isn’t some star or former star who expects to be revered. Instead, he’s a man who is ashamed of much of his past and has lived a fairly shattered existence. Regardless, he’s attempting to redeem his failures at this late stage in his life. Again, that is what makes this a redemption story that doesn’t feel overwrought or melodramatic – and is very relatable in many ways.

Even Duncan earns some sympathy at times. He’s a man so obsessed with the talents of other people that he is blind to the good things he has in life. There is much about his character that I see in myself upon reflection, which is sort of disappointing. Ultimately, he’s a jerk to Annie most of the time, and obviously selfish.

Final thoughts…

The characters are extremely compelling, and the music that connects them all is enjoyable. While this film may not work with everyone, it clicked for me at almost every beat. The positivity and hope that I took from the film meshed with the excellent performances definitely make it one I’ll add to my collection at some point. Juliet, Naked earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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