In Juliet, Naked director Jesse Peretz (Nurse Jackie, GLOW) offers a disarmingly compelling romantic comedy, which despite its decidedly contrived and uneven narrative still manages to deliver a hearteningly charming storyline about second chances in life, in this surprisingly enjoyable adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 2009 best selling novel of the same name.
Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), a nerdy university professor whom she feels has been taking their relationship for granted for several years. For Duncan, the couple are just fine the way they are, and despite Annie’s secret longing for motherhood, it was decided a long time ago that it would be best if they remained childless as to not upset the balance of their seemingly perfect relationship.
Obsessed with obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), Duncan is baffled by Annie’s lack of enthusiasm for his one and only idol, a man he worships to the point of having dedicated a whole online forum to. When an acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit album fromfrom 25 years ago is unveiled, the release leads to a rather surprising encounter with the deeply elusive rocker, but will this mark the final nail in the coffin for the couple’s bumpy relationship, or could things finally fall into place for all three?
With Hornby’s own unmistakable tone and particular blend of self-deprecating humour running through its narrative, Juliet, Naked presents a hilariously funny if, at times, slightly aimless storyline, which is as fantastically bonkers as it is heart-warming. Peretz offers a romantic comedy which shouldn’t really work given its shortcomings in the screenplay stakes, but in the end you will find yourself gently chuckling away at its frequent and very knowing gags, which are delivered expertly by O’Dowd and Hawke in particular.
Rose Byrne is hugely likeable as Annie, she gives a typically measured and understated performance as a woman who until now has failed to take charge of her own destiny, and who is slowly learning to be who she wants to be. For his part, Ethan Hawke is impressive as Tucker Crowe whom he offers as a taciturn old rocker with way more kids from different women than he cares to admit to, and more skeletons in his closet than he is prepared to reveal.
Whilst far from being perfect, Juliet, Naked is still able to deliver on its promise of romance and adventure, and I will defy anyone to not fall in love with its disarmingly simple story and hugely likeable characters.