Earlier this week, I took a look at Ethan Hawke’s latest directorial effort. Today, we’ll be looking at his newest starring role. The movie in question is Juliet, Naked, which is based on the charming Nick Hornby book of the same name. This week, the adaptation hits theaters, offering up something mellow and nice for audiences. Hawke getting to play an elusive rock star would suggest a far harder edged affair than this, but it makes for a nice little change of pace. You won’t necessarily see any raves about this kind of flick, but you need them. They’re comfort food, cinematically speaking.
The film is described, via IMDb, as such: “Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie (the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan) and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.” A secondary description goes like this: “Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) – an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, JULIET, NAKED is a comic account of life’s second chances.” Hornby’s novel is better, but isn’t that always the case? That being said, having Byrne, Hawke, and O’Dowd in the main three roles is perfect casting. Jesse Peretz directs, while the script is by the eclectic trio of Tamara Jenkins (a talented director in her own right), Evgenia Peretz, and Jim Taylor (Academy Award winner and former collaborator of Alexander Payne). Making up the supporting cast are the likes of Megan Dodds, Lily Newmark, Azhy Robertson, Ayoola Smart, Johanna Thea, and Jimmy O. Yang. Nathan Larson provides the music, while the cinematography comes from Remi Adefarasin.
If you like this sort of low key flick, Juliet, Naked is right up your alley. The movie has charm to burn. Rose Byrne always deserves more leading roles, while Chris O’Dowd makes a potentially unlikable character into someone humorous yet somewhat sympathetic. As for Ethan Hawke, he’s clearly having some fun here, and it rubs off on the whole project. The trio are so well cast, you’d watch them in just about anything. Having them front a fun little movie like this is just a bonus. Sure, it’s light entertainment and fairly predictable, but every so often, that’s just what you need. The film serves an important, if less than hifalutin, purpose.
Here is how I would rank Hawke’s ten best performances to date:
10. Dead Poets Society
9. Born to be Blue
8. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
7. First Reformed
6. Reality Bites
5. Before Sunrise
4. Training Day
3. Before Sunset
1. Before Midnight
Honorable Mention: Good Kill, Juliet, Naked, In a Valley of Violence, Lord of War, The Phenom, and What Doesn’t Kill You
Starting tomorrow, audiences can see the charm in action from the three leads when Juliet, Naked hits theaters. This one has a great future on cable in the years to come. No matter what kind of an audience it finds on Friday, and beyond, the future will be very kind to it. Sure, it’s not on the level of About a Boy or High Fidelity, Hornby wise, but it’s a better effort than A Long Way Down. Hornby’s novels all have cinematic potential, so it’s good to see another one getting the big screen treatment. Give it a look and see what you end up thinking…
Be sure to check out Juliet, Naked, in theaters this weekend!