Based on the British author’s 2009 novel of the same name, Juliet, Naked wins on the strength of its three entangled characters: Rose Byrne is Annie, a wistful, unfulfilled girlfriend of Duncan, whom she lives with in seaside England; Chris O’Dowd is Duncan, a prickly film studies teacher and annoyingly obsessed fan of an obscure American singer-songwriter (Tucker Crowe) who mysteriously disappeared years ago; and Ethan Hawke (who’s morphing into a smaller Nick Nolte right before our eyes) is Tucker Crowe, a greying and potbellied lost soul who strikes up an online relationship with Annie.
Adapted by Nick Hornby
Hornby’s novelistic tone combines reflexive irony and self-deprecation with a buoyant belief in the redemptive power of art (especially music) and of human contact. He has been a prolific writer and screenwriter since his early success with his novels Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, which were adapted into successful films in the early 2000s.
Hornby has continued to produce quality works of fiction, as well as adapting other writers’ work for the screen. His adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir An Education was a critical and box office success, and his screenplay for Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild garnered Oscar nominations.
For the most part, he has produced well-acted and emotionally compelling films with strong narratives and relatable characters. He has a knack for depicting the trials of middle-aged romantics and the pernicious elements of music fandom, evoking a sense of dread that is largely unmatched in modern Hollywood.
In juliet naked, the British author Nick Hornby has written a film that earnestly explores second chances, middle-aged romance and the pernicious elements of music fandom. He also creates a roster of younger characters who are coming of age in a weird, complicated world.
The film revolves around Annie, a museum curator and repressed longtime girlfriend who has rekindled her love life with reclusive rock star Tucker Crowe. The pair are drawn together through their shared passion for the artist’s latest album, Juliet, Naked. Duncan, her pretentious ex-boyfriend, is a compulsive rock and Roll fan and obsesses over maintaining a website dedicated to Crowe’s work.
While he is a talented musician himself, Crowe’s music is more than just a way of life for him; it’s a vehicle that allows him to express his deeply personal emotions and express himself in ways that are often difficult to articulate. Hawke’s performance of Crowe is one of the most moving and authentic portrayals of a rock n’ roll icon in recent memory.
This movie is slight and narrow in scope, but its performers are dedicated and its passions run deep. It’s a love story that focuses on three characters who have devoted their lives to a particular album by one of the most iconic and enduring rock artists in history. Its characters aren’t just repressed, but also misunderstood, and their relationships are fraught with complications and complexities that are sometimes funny and often heart-wrenching.
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Jesse Peretz, the director of Nurse Jackie and Girls, is no stranger to working close to the heart. With his latest film, Juliet naked, he brings his musical background to the screen as he directs Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd in Nick Hornby’s novel.
For this film, Peretz teamed up with Nathan Larson, who was his bandmate in the ’90s and also composed the music. They also enlisted some of the best singer-songwriters of the past two decades, many of whom are still active today, to bring Tucker Crowe’s songs to life.
In juliet naked, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) is obsessed with his favorite singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). He has a shrine to the artist, an American singer-songwriter who vanished after making a seminal album twenty years earlier.
When Duncan receives a demo version of Juliet, the album that is his holy grail, he becomes even more devoted to Crowe. Annie (Rose Byrne), his patient girlfriend, writes a negative review of the album and in the process begins an online friendship with Tucker through email.
The relationship between fan and artist is a flawed one. Fans project a fantasy onto the artist, while artists often don’t have the time to spend with their fans. But despite this, the movie manages to explore this complex, oftentimes shady relationship with tenderness and humor.
At the same time, this movie is a love story about a long-term girlfriend and her unlikely transatlantic romance with an elusive rock star. The romance is fueled by Annie’s stubbornness, her lack of patience and her love for her husband, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd).
Peretz’s directorial style is a mix of documentary and narrative. He aims to present a true story that feels real, without the use of CGI.
He also takes a more layered approach to character development, and he doesn’t gloss over the hard parts of his characters. He uses humor to drive the narrative, but he never loses sight of the fact that these characters are real people who are dealing with real issues.
The movie also features a lot of emotion, and it is surprisingly moving. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but there are also some touching scenes between Duncan and his ex-wife and his daughter.
Starring Chris O’Dowd
Chris O’Dowd can do hapless and geeky (Roy in the IT Crowd), sweet and charming (the cop who falls for Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids) or wily and sarcastic (Miles Daly in Get Shorty). In Jesse Peretz’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel Juliet, Naked, O’Dowd plays Rose Byrne’s neglectful boyfriend Duncan. He’s obsessed with reclusive music star Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).
It’s a love story that rekindles when the washed up rocker enters their lives, but O’Dowd gives his character an edge in that he’s not really all that enamored of him. In fact, Annie (Rose Byrne) finds his obsession annoying. She doesn’t share his interest in Tucker Crowe and thinks his artistic output bores her.
The movie opens to acclaim at Sundance. CBS News sat down with stars Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd for a chat about the film, fandom and what it’s like to play a relationship gone sour.
O’Dowd has been a fixture on the British comedy scene since his role as Roy Trenneman in Channel 4’s cult series The IT Crowd. He’s also starred in Family Tree and Girls, and co-wrote, produced and directed Sky1’s semi-autobiographical Moone Boy.
But he was first noticed for his role in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, for which he received two Oscar(r) nominations and AFI named it “Movie of the Year.” That role made him an overnight Hollywood star, and his performance has won him awards, including the Irish Film and Television Award for best supporting actor in a feature film and a Screen Actors Guild award. He has a three-year-old son, Art, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer and TV presenter Dawn O’Porter.
He’s appeared on several other shows, including This Is 40 and the American version of NBC’s Get Shorty. He also has a voice in the animated Puffin Rock.
Currently, O’Dowd is working on his next film, This Is 40, which he described as “an absolute joy.” He also co-wrote and co-produced the comedy Moone Boy for Sky 1.
The 38-year-old Irish actor was born in Sligo but moved to London when he was 10 years old. He studied politics and sociology at University College Dublin before deciding to focus on acting. He began his career in theater and landed several film roles.
Starring Rose Byrne
juliet naked stars Rose Byrne, who has a long and impressive career as a comedic actress. She’s also a natural dramatic actor, and her performance in this film is a showcase for her ability to play character roles with the same deftness as she does comedy.
Byrne plays Annie, a young woman who lives with her man-child boyfriend Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) in a tiny town on the British coast. She works at the local museum, which her father once ran, and she has a sister who lives with them. But her relationship with Duncan has become increasingly lifeless, and she’s beginning to wonder whether they should start a family.
The movie’s premise is pretty straightforward: Duncan is a college professor who runs a fan site and message board about a mysterious emo rocker named Tucker Crowe, whose only album was a cult hit in the ’90s but he disappeared without a trace. Despite that, Duncan remains obsessed with him and is able to maintain a cultlike following by running a fan site and message board dedicated to him.
While some people might see this film as just another rom-com, it’s really about fandom in the digital age and the way that obsession can bleed into every aspect of our lives. It’s a smart, wry social commentary on internet fandom, and its central characters are perfectly drawn.
What’s so clever about the film is that the characters aren’t set up as good guys and bad guys, but as people who are battling against their own internal adolescent demons. Eventually, they realize that they aren’t as much against their fan as they are with him.
As they work together to get through their relationship, they develop a chemistry that is sweet and reticent, as though their mutual concern for each other’s emotional well-being is as important as any love story. Hawke and O’Dowd do a great job of portraying this conflict, and Byrne brings her usual energy and intelligence to her role.
Juliet naked is the latest from Nick Hornby, a writer and director whose previous books-to-movies have included High Fidelity and About a Boy. It may not be his best, but it’s a fine movie that offers some amusing commentary on obsessive fandom and an unorthodox look at romance.