Comedy Drama

Review: Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke Shine in ‘Juliet, Naked’

August 31, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

A charming indie about a woman who desires to escape from the mundane nature of her life, Juliet, Naked finds Rose Byrne playing Annie, a woman who has become stuck in her old hometown and in a life she never really wanted. Annie gave up on her dreams many years ago, but has lived with an aching in her heart ever since, not realizing that her boyfriend Duncan's (the always delightful Chris O'Dowd) obsession with a once-famous musician may be the opening she has long needed.

Annie and Duncan live a simple, quiet and unambitious life. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a former rising singer-songwriter, which has led him to curate every aspect of Crowe's life since he disappeared from a gig decades prior. His quest to know all things Tucker Crowe eventually pushes Annie to her breaking point. And as a way to get back at her boyfriend's intolerable preoccupation, Annie writes a scathing review of an unfinished demo that was sent to Duncan. This prompts a response from the mysterious man himself, and thus an online courtship begins between Annie and her unknowing tormentor.

Hawke puts in yet another wonderful performance, proving that he is one of the most versatile and talented actors of his generation. Meanwhile, O'Dowd, despite his character being insufferable, is still extremely charming, providing further proof that he belongs in the pantheon of Hollywood Chrises. That said, while these men are entertaining, the movie unequivocally belongs to Byrne.

As someone who has been so consumed with the needs of others and assuming responsibilities that are not hers, Annie's plight is recognizable. Years flash by and now she wonders what life could have been if she took chances, but she settles for what she has. Many women can see themselves in Annie, and Byrne never once makes her someone we pity; rather, she puts in an empathetic performance, allowing us to sympathize with Annie and to root for her to get the happy end that she makes for herself. What drives the story are Annie's desires and her taking the necessary steps to fulfill them, but at the opposite side of the coin is Tucker Crowe. Both he and Annie stumble upon a mutually beneficial relationship, allowing them to better their own lives by tackling their personal roadblocks head on.

Unfortunately, the film centered around these great characters does not hold up quite as well as the actors' performances. Jesse Peretz's direction and Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor and Tamara Jenkins' script leave a lot to be desired, but the movie still manages to create a decent story arc for Annie and Tucker that gives space for Byrne and Hawke to shine. Juliet, Naked borrows heavily from similarly themed romantic comedies, but does little to break the mold. Instead, a great deal of it feels rather repetitive and clunky; yet superb casting does a lot to help make the overall experience enjoyable.

Juliet, Naked releases August 31st, 2018 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 45 min.

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