Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #307
A fascinating character study about a paradox of a human being, who seems to have all the intelligence and charm in the world, but instead chooses to be a bum and leech off the misery of others.
"So what happened, were you bored in Manchester? ... Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody - you're all so bored."
Be warned that Writer and Director Mike Leigh's film Naked is certainly an off-putting experience. But I would urge people to stick with it to see the full course of this story play out, with its miserable leading man Johnny, played by David Thewlis. Naked reminded me of a lot 'A Clockwork Orange', but while the violence against women is not meant to be taken seriously in Kubrick's masterpiece. That same element in Naked is very much shown as being this mean spirited, and carnal act of lustful aggression.
"But a cliché is full of truth, otherwise it wouldn't be a cliché ... Which is in itself a cliché."
So the story takes place in England and follows Johnny around as he takes advantage of those who open up to him, only to shut them out the minute he is done with him. The strange thing is that he is a smooth talker and seems to be extremely well read, but his sloppy appearance and reckless approach to life reflects that all he really wants to do is wander around looking for the next opportunity to exploit someone. Don't watch this with anyone that is sensitive about cursing, because there are a few parts where the dialouge is nothing but Fuck this and Fuck that, in these strong British accents.
An element that really stood out was the very nice but repetitive music. I felt like this must have been presenting a bit of symbolism, for how Johnny is caught in his own repeating loop of making these awful choices in life. But then we are shown that you don't have to be a vagabond like Johnny to be an ass hole toward women. Johnny's character is paralleled by this guy named Jeremy who is the opposite of him status-wise, but is still an awful person that looks to impose his will and exploit people.
On a side note...
This quote had to be the inspiration for Thewlis being cast in Harry Potter 3. "I used to be a werewolf, but I'm all right no-OOWWWWWWWWWW!"
My favorite part of the film was when a security guard takes pity on Johnny, and lets him into the building that he is looking after so he can get out of the cold. It is so fitting that this building is totally empty, but the security guard is still paid to watch it and do regular checks. Despite Johnny being a bum he has the nerve to mention that a monkey could do this job. But while the security guard admits that may be true, he still takes pride in performing this responsibility that he has been assigned to. We also key into how much Johnny loves the sound of his own voice in this scene, as a keeps talking about his theories on life.
There was an amazing shot during this scene when we see each man's silhouette, and features like Johnny's messy mustache are still so distinguishable within these shadows. Despite Johnny likely enjoying his conversation with the guard, he still figures out a way to hurt the man when he finds out that he is somewhat of a peeping tom to a woman in a nearby building. So Johnny proceeds to go and assault her with the guard looking on.
I wonder why these women like Johnny so much, and it is pretty icky to watch his gnarly mustache rubbing all over their faces as he makes out with them. His filthy body is mostly covered up, but toward the end we do get one shot off how nasty he has let his cut-up ankle get.
Another aspect that reminded me of 'A Clockwork Orange', is how he gets beat up toward the end by this group of street thugs. This causes him to once again be taken in by these women he has betrayed over and over again. He has a moment with one of the women named Louise, who is apparently from the same town, and they have had a relationship together in the past. He assures her they will be together, but then as soon as she goes away his nature kicks right back in, and he steals a bunch of cash they found and takes off down the street despite barely being able to walk due to his injuries.
Despite Naked being a character student about this dingy awful person. After a while, I did find myself getting pulled in by David Thewlis' charm, and enjoyed hearing him rant about all his ideas on life. So on a first watch it did take me some time to get invested in this story, but I can easily see myself taking even more away from it on repeated viewings.
Thanks for reading!
Happy movie watching .... Cheers!