Movies: Juliet, Naked

This is my favorite Nick Hornby book, so I doubt that anything would really live up to my expectations. That said, I think this film is remarkably well cast (Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, and Chris O'Dowd) and fairly charming. It's rote, though, and has been quite altered from the source material.

Byrne plays Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (O'Dowd), who has a pop culture obsession that he's parlayed into a day job as an instructor at a small-town university in Sandcliff, England. He teaches a class on The Wire. But his true love is nitpicking the work of reclusive rocker Tucker Crowe (Hawke), who abruptly disappeared from the music scene some 20+ years ago. Duncan runs a website dedicated to Crowe where visitors deconstruct the music and theorize on his life. Blurry pictures of Crowe "sightings" abound.

Annie is mildly dissatisfied with life but too cautious to shake things up. Then change comes to her in the form of an anonymous CD sent to Duncan of the demo tapes of Tucker Crowe's album Juliet—only this is called Juliet, Naked. She listens to it before Duncan, sparking his ire. After they spar, Annie writes a scathing review of the recording on Duncan's own site.

Her contradictory point of view grabs the attention of Tucker Crowe himself, and he and Annie begin an email correspondence. Things more or less go paint-by-number from there, with Duncan of course also having a physical affair with another instructor so that Annie can look like the better person in this narrative. If Duncan had only been obnoxious but Annie had carried on with this emotional attachment, she would run the risk of being the bad guy.

That said, it is a cute little movie, if rote. I still greatly prefer the book because there's something about the tone of the novel that this film doesn't quite catch. But the movie is worth a watch on its own merits.

I have a tendency to think of Ethan Hawke as a villain, or at the very least intense—he was my inspiration for Uncle Eoin in my Hamlette novel—so it's nice to see him in a more laid-back role. And Azhy Robertson as Tucker's son Jackson is adorable.

In short: a good movie but, as is so often true, the book was better.

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