Juliet, Naked follows the the connection formed between a ’90s American rocker, with a fanbase still dedicated to him, and a British museum curator, whose boyfriend is the rocker’s biggest fan. Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) ended his career when he left what would be his final concert midway through the show, much to the dismay of his fans who continue to discuss theories regarding his exit twenty-five years later. His final album, Juliet, is a masterpiece to Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), a film professor in the quiet, seaside town where he lives with his girlfriend, Annie (Rose Byrne).
One day, a package arrives for Duncan from a record label containing the original demo of Juliet, titled Juliet, Naked. Duncan fawns over the discovery, but Annie disagrees and says so on Duncan’s fan site. While her comments anger Duncan, they catch the interest of one exciting person: Tucker Crowe.
As Duncan obsesses over the album and distances himself from Annie, she begins a lengthy email exchange with Tucker. Annie does not belong with Duncan–that much is clear–yet she has spent 15 years with him. Annie is stuck in this town, having taken over her father’s job at the museum after his death, and Rose Byrne captures the dissatisfaction Annie has with her life, filling the air during her exchanges with Hawke’s Tucker Crowe with a quiet determination that we don’t often see at the movies anymore.
Hawke maintains a scruffiness that we all recognize from his work but from which we never tire. He produces a character of arrogance yet softness, a man changed by the mistakes of his past and bettered by the influence of his young son Jackson (Azhy Robertson).
Watching Duncan obsess over a man’s music from decades earlier becomes almost painful to watch, especially as Annie exists in his life as a staple. Annie is his expectation of normalcy, along with his teaching The Wire and his Tucker Crowe shrine in the house. Annie bonds with Duncan’s idol while their own relationship unravels, but the infusion of charm and humor into these moments leans on reality to tell their story.
Director Jesse Peretz frames these characters, and actors, in a light that reminds you to notice the subtleties in life and not to downplay the funny moments that may only last a few minutes. He brings in a big cast of characters in Tucker’s many children and exes, all of whom end up in the same room in a farcical scene that keeps the whole audience laughing.
Of course, Tucker ends up in England for the inevitable meeting with Annie and Duncan, which is to be expected given the triangle created at the start of the film. However, the story of Juliet becomes clear as time passes, and you can’t help but smile as you realize just how glad you are to have spent some time with all of these characters.
The stakes of this film might seem quite ordinary, but that is precisely what is so charming about it. Byrne, O’Dowd, Hawke, and even young Robertson, carry the heart of this film out in the open. Juliet, Naked is one to make sure you see as soon as possible.
Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions