Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked is a small, immensely likable and charming romantic comedy about three people trying to start over in life. It most certainly works much better than it should. Hornby is known for High Fidelity and About A Boy. This film falls into similar trappings but does everything in such a sweet, comforting, earnest way. It’s destined to put a smile on even the most cynical viewer’s face.
Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in a rut with her longtime boyfriend Duncan (Chris O’Dowd,) an obsessive fan of onetime rockstar Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke.) Annie has always wanted to move out of her small England town, but circumstances have always kept her from doing so. She’s eager for the future, and he’s stuck in the past. One day, he receives a CD of “Juliet, Naked,” an unreleased collection of acoustic demos from 25 years ago. This leads to an event that brings these three lives together.
Byrne is an actress who, when given the opportunity, can truly do anything. She completely carries this movie. This is a good, meaty role. Annie is a fully dimensional character, and the viewer feels the full range of emotions with her. I hope this leads to more good work for her. She chooses parts wisely, for the most part, and she always shines. She has terrific chemistry with O’Dowd, who she worked with before on Bridesmaids.
O’Dowd and Hawke could come across as the man-splaining imbeciles who Annie has to tolerate, but they seem like complicated people with positive and negative aspects, as well. Tucker is the aging one-time rock star whose life of bad behavior has led to resentment and strain among those in his life, and Duncan is comfortably stuck in his place in life and isn’t ready for any kind of change in life. I can always appreciate when there’s no good-guy-bad-guy struggle in a movie. These are all complicated people who are trying to do the right thing.
In the end, Jesse Peretz is a director who, after a string of flops, may have finally found his stride. This is an absolutely delightful movie. It’s formulaic, somewhat slight and the last third is a little heavy on the melodrama, but it reminds you what a good romantic comedy should do. It’s actually romantic and comedic, and it has a few nice twists and turns. It’s a nice portrait of three complicated characters, and it definitely crafts a catchy tune.