‘JULIET, NAKED’ is a little romantic-comedy that packs a ton of charm. It stars Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, and Chris O’Dowd. The story centers around Annie who is stuck in a lifeless relationship with a man who is obsessed with a faded rock-star named Tucker Crowe. He runs a fan forum site to celebrate the career of this musician and when an unreleased album of Crowe’s surfaces, their difference of opinion causes a fracture between them. Something that inspires her to write a negative review out of frustration. Unknowing it will be read by Crowe himself leading them to an unsuspected friendship.
I felt this was such a subtly captivating film. It introduces a collection of characters and situations that people can relate to, and it progresses with an intriguing direction that came off as very genuine. This story explores the decisions people make in their lives and more so the ramifications of them. It examines a person’s inner contemplation’s of where their life currently is and where it may have been had they made different choices. It also dives into the concept that just because a person has made the wrong decisions in the past, doesn’t mean that an unhappy life can’t be rectified. The regret a person lives with sometimes is self-inflicted. There are seconds chances at times and this story-line did such a great job of laying the groundwork to that with a small collection of characters that all grow in terms of their perspectives on life.
When the film starts we meet Annie, Tucker, and Duncan. They are all at a point in life where they are simply passing time, or at least not in a place they honestly consider satisfying. Annie aspires for a family life, on her own if need be, but doesn’t have the courage to initiate it. Tucker is living in the swirl of guilt from his rock-and-roll lifestyle, and the people he hurt along the way. Duncan is lost in his head consumed by the music in his life while living among those who don’t share his passion for the creative arts. He is more focused on someone else’s life than his own which shelters him from personal growth.
I felt the script did such an effective job of using the story-line progression to advance the personal growth of the characters. When the film ends we have been through the journey of realization with them. We see their happiness, their realizations, their growth, and it was intriguing because I genuinely felt an investment in each of them. The writing felt very unscripted throughout making the conversations feel much more organic which was perfect for shedding away the studio production feel to give it authenticity.
This film doesn’t want to hit you over the head with romantic drama tropes. It doesn’t force its hand with the humor, and it never strays into melodramatics. It was extremely down-to-earth and felt much more like a peek inside the lives of these characters. Something that made the emotionally driven moments hit just as impactful, as the clever humor came off as feeling sincere.
Rose Byrne delivered a very capable performance and felt natural in this role. She pulled off all the emotional dynamics of this character effectively and it will make you connect with her. She is very much in a life-rut. Many of us have been there, and watching her work through it was subtle, but genuinely inspiring and heartwarming at times because she legitimately felt like a good person.
Ethan Hawke was fantastic as well and delivered another performance that reminded me why I love him so much. He felt completely at-home in this role and captured the nuances of a once famous musician that in his own mind, was washed-up and sort of wallowing in the guilt of his life decisions. While never coming off like he wanted or expected pity. Instead portraying a mentality with the notion that, this is the bed he made, and he knows he will have to lay in it. His chemistry with Bryne was perfectly tailored for their awkward connection and differing personality types. Watching them interact came off very realistic and through their conversations it was interesting to see their differences sort of play off one another to turn the other in the right direction in life.
We have all been so close to the right path, and sometimes it takes that small push to get us going and this story captured that little element of life with an inspirational charm. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Chris O’Dowd as well. His character was easily the most frustrating of the group. His being lost in his world of music and detached from life, in a sense did portray him as a person that simply needed to grow up a little, and without question channel his enthusiasm. Which I felt O’Dowd’s performance certainly pulled off when it could have easily been a role that was annoying to the point of being a distraction.
But it wasn’t, and the collection of performances felt perfect for the needs of the story and the overall tone of the film. This was a fresh plot-line that could have easily played out with a formulaic progression, but it doesn’t. The various relationships dynamics felt real, they had a ‘Modern Family’ vibe at times that was comical and it all resonates as practical life issues, not theatrical tropes.
If you are a person who likes a ‘Hollywood Ending’ you may be disappointed. But if you want a grounded film with a story that has a message it never loses sight of. While at the same time never beating you over the head with it, you will like this one. If you like characters that feel like real people with real issues, then you will connect with them through the fantastic performances and find yourself pulled into the world of the story.
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