Friday 21 December 2018

Juliet, Naked ★★★★☆

The rom-com genre is an interesting one in film – it’s absolutely massive, never seeming to fade out of existence like some movie crazes do, but it can also be seen as quite marmite. I tend to not watch rom-coms out of choice as I often find them predictable and/or unoriginal, but there are several that I absolutely love and will watch over and over again. 

‘Juliet, Naked’ is the latest film directed by Jesse Peretz (known for ‘Our Idiot Brother’ and TV series ‘Girls’) and is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, one of our leading male rom-com writers (Hornby, alongside David Nicholls, is one of my favourites when it comes to books). Annie (Rose Byrne) is in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), a lecturer so obsessed with long-disappeared rock star Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) that he leads a forum on his disappearance and posts videos discussing Tucker-related conspiracy theories from his Tucker Crowe shrine room. As you can imagine, Annie is fed up, and a disagreement between the two ends up leading to her communicating with the elusive Tucker over email, creating some interesting scenarios down the line.

The two key elements of romantic comedy are strong here, with a satisfying mix of romantic potential and laugh-inducing scenes, from frequent on- liners to full minutes of hilarity such as an unusual family gathering around a hospital bed that perfectly combines cringe and humour. The chemistry between actors is what makes it, with good performances all round (but especially from Hawke and Byrne). O’Dowd is great as well, bringing his obsessive and slightly creepy character to life. 

What makes this one different is that, instead of being a bit fluffy and trivial like rom-coms can be, it actually focuses on some pretty weighty issues, and focuses on them well. Divorce, regret, and the concept of the absent father are all explored, and the integrity of the acting helps build up emotion during some particularly difficult scenes for the characters. This doesn’t impact on the humour, instead giving a point to the story, and several different ways in which the viewer can relate to a plot which, although great to watch, is admittedly far-fetched.

I actually found that I enjoyed the film as much as the book in the end – although Hornby’s writing is excellent there’s something oddly charming about this specific set of characters when they’re on the big screen, and the Hawke and Byrne, in particular, added the perfect dynamic that Hornby wanted to convey throughout the novel. The film is every bit as comforting as the book, and makes for a cosy Sunday morning watch with your other half, snuggled under the duvet away from the miserable British autumn outside.

Although contrived in parts, ‘Juliet, Naked’ is feel-good rom-com with a modern and indie feel that sets it apart from the rest. Even if it’s not your genre of choice it’s still worth a watch, with a gentle reminder that maybe some of us need – even if it has all gone wrong so far, there’s no reason why you can’t fix that for the future.

Hannah Read

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