Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked ★★★

Fans of High Fidelity and About a Boy will definitely want to check out Juliet, Naked, the latest Nick Hornby adaptation to hit the big screen. Another romantic-comedy steeped in pop music, it concerns the emotional hang-ups of Annie (played by the always lovely Rose Byrne), a bored British woman in her mid-30s stuck in a long-term relationship with pretentious liberal arts professor Duncan (Chris Dowd, exuding equal measures charm and smarm). As we learn in the film's opening moments, Duncan's true love in his life is not Annie, but rather Tucker Crowe, a once-celebrated American singer-songwriter who achieved fame early in his career thanks to the hit album, Juliet, only to fade into myth and obscurity. When an early recording of that album resurfaces and comes into superfan Duncan's possession, a screenplay contrivance or two finds Annie and the now middle-aged, disillusioned rocker (played to perfection by Ethan Hawke, slowly becoming one of my favorite actors) beginning a transatlantic correspondence that slowly evolves into something more.

Boasting fine acting from the principal leads and no shortage of witty dialogue, Juliet, Naked nonetheless plays like a collection of b-sides rather than the master LP one might hope for. There are unquestionably moments of cliche, and a predictable conclusion, yet for the occasional eye-rolling moments there are also more than enough laughs and well-observed interactions to make up for them. I particularly enjoyed a hospital room sojourn that turns into an awkward family reunion for Tucker, and there is a gag involving a couple double A batteries too good to spoil. Modest recommendation.

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