Let’s Be Clear: Our Review Of ‘Juliet, Naked’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 31, 2018
Let’s Be Clear: Our Review Of ‘Juliet, Naked’

Juliet, Naked isn’t your grandmother’s style of romantic comedy. Director Jesse Peretz uses a standard rom-com set up to explore love, regret, and communication. The result is a thoughtful, inviting, and breezy watch that stands out in an over-crowded genre.

 Annie (Rose Byrne) and Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) are a not-so-happy middle-aged couple living in a small English town outside of London. After Annie’s dad passed away, she gave up her dreams, came back home, and took over. Now closing in on 40, she’s having second thoughts about her choices in life. Chiefly, staying childless. Making matters worse, there’s no spark left between the two lovers and Duncan spends most of his time obsessing over an American musician named Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).

Juliet Naked All Smiles - Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke Photo credit Alex Bailey

Juliet, Naked — Credit: Alex Bailey

Twenty-five years ago, Tucker released a “masterpiece” album, then dropped off the map and became the stuff of legend. But only to a small crew of diehards who Duncan manages on a fan website. In a move we’ll call pulling a Colangelo, Annie creates a pseudonym, goes online, and trashes a newly discovered Tucker Crowe album. To her surprise, the elusive musician emails her back. And as Annie and Tucker’s relationship crumbles, she grows closer to her digital pen pal, Tucker.

The most fascinating aspect of Juliet, Naked is the subtle statements Peretz makes about how we communicate with each other. We communicate through words, body language, and how we dress, but the message we broadcast to others isn’t the same one that they perceive. Communication is about understanding and being understood. Ideally it goes both ways but life isn’t a series of ideal situations. Juliet, Naked examines communication through the lens of bitter lovers, family, online personas, and art to show us the fallibility of self-expression.

Duncan embodies fan-boy culture. He needs to be heard but doesn’t want to listen. He’s a radio station beaming out a one-way signal and he comes off as an arrogant mansplainer. Like many fanboys, Duncan is the expert of something so niche that he’s not the ruler of a mountain, he reigns over a molehill. It’s a blast watching O’Dowd breath life into his character. He brings his first-class comedic chops, of course, but also adds more depth and humanity than this role dictates. He’s funny, off-putting, and also sad. Even though Annie is our hero, it’s hard not to feel for the guy. Like everyone else, he’s looking for meaning in his lonely life.

Juliet, Naked -- Credit: Alex Bailey

Earlier this year, Hawke turned in an Oscar-worthy performance in First Reformed. It turns out he’s really good in this picture too. Tucker is an alcoholic, slacker, and negligent father who lives rent-free in his ex-wife’s garage. On paper, this guy is a villain. He spawned a basketball team’s worth of kids from four mothers and pushes away anyone who hangs around long enough. Hawke elevates Tucker to the level of a charming screw-up. While there is no reason to have faith in a guy like Tucker, Hawke convinces us otherwise. He plays Tucker as an unreliable but well-meaning burnout.

 For a hall of fame f#<k up like Tucker, the past is nothing but a long series of mistakes. And after living life to the fullest he still has loads of regrets. But Annie leads an ideal life; honest, loving, and loyal to a fault, and she suffers from just as much regret; the career she never chased, the adventures she never went on, and the kids she never mothered. Peretz’ film makes a bold statement, telling us no matter where life takes us we never get everything right. Life is messy, complicated, and random so suck it up and keep moving forward because looking back gets you nowhere. It’s a dispiriting (but honest) message packed into a film disguised as a fluffy rom-com.

Technology lets us connect with people half-way around the world and the irony is that we struggle to communicate with people in the same room. Many of the obstacles we face in finding love and success start with our inability to express how we truly feel. Being wishy-washy, passive-aggressive, and indirect aren’t the first steps on the path to bliss. Juliet, Naked takes some charming characters and makes them confront what’s obstructing their happiness. It’s hard not to root for Byrne, Hawke, and O’Dowd, who are all delightful, in a “rom-com” that’s more subversive than it appears.

  • Release Date: 8/31/2018
This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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