Juliet, Naked… if you were expecting nudity, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. This music comedy drama romance from former Lemonheads bassist, Jesse Peretz, is more in line with High Fidelity and Notting Hill. While not quite as iconic or nostalgic, the experienced film and TV director, best known for Our Idiot Brother and The Château, will probably be using it as his calling card from now on. Starring some considerable talents in Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke… the story centres on a strange love triangle, between a long-suffering girlfriend, her die-hard fanboy partner and his faded rock idol obsession, Tucker Crowe. Still no nudity.
While the film title sounds a bit racy, this unconventional music comedy drama is actually quite harmless, dealing with themes relating to reclaiming fatherhood, longing for motherhood and coming to terms with the crushing reality of unrequited dreams. A character-driven film, Juliet, Naked is backed by a charming ensemble who have good on-screen chemistry. It’s a curious foray into the lives of a long term couple and a burnt out musician, who are trying to find meaning in life. A college lecturer and a historical exhibitor find their relationship has reached an impasse while a cult rock star tries to repatriate with his many families.
Chris O’Dowd is quite hilarious as a super fan with a severe lack of empathy, allowing his geek worship to overshadow every waking moment and dictate relationships. Ethan Hawke is making a thing of playing a burnt out Peter Pan rocker, almost tripping into The Big Lebowski territory with his take on an over-the-hill guy with no real ambition. Rose Byrne is subtle, a bit glum as a woman trapped in a dead-end job and relationship – trying to find significance.
“Well, this isn’t awkward… at all. No sir.”
Leaning on their can-do performances, Juliet, Naked is a gently meandering transatlantic romance drama. Much like the acoustic album at its core, the film is about unfinished business, delivering this through its awkward and niche tone while enjoying some offbeat and quirky Brit comedy. Following in the tradition of John Carney’s Once and Begin Again, but giving it a more aggressive comedic slant, we get to fall in love with characters falling in love with music and musicians. As if a tri-catalyst for each of them to finally move on from their going-nowhere-slowly lives, we’re entertained by the unusual scenario and unlikely modern romance.
The film pushes off the world’s current alienated and melancholic mood, niche fandoms, online relationships, instant gratification and the perceived accessibility to the famous and used-to-be-famous. Starting off like some indie London romance, Juliet, Naked spreads its wings as turning points arrive in the form of an envelope and then email. Building on the same love that Cameron Crowe has for all things rock ‘n roll, the candid storytelling gets to grips with the nuances of modern families and relationships.
While a bit slow-moving and peppered with bad language, Juliet, Naked does just enough to keep you involved – echoing superior films yet carving a space for itself as a delightfully awkward little romance comedy drama with a sharp ensemble. Sundance-friendly, eccentric and amusing, it’s enjoyable enough to forgive its rough edges, serving as an extension of the ugly-beauty charm of Tucker Crowe’s album, Juliet, Naked.
The bottom line: Quirky